The Process of Probate

The process to obtain the authority to manage a deceased person’s estate is called probate. This article takes you through the steps you need to go through to take up the role of an executor or an administrator.
Alvin T'ngThu Aug 05 2021

Probate is a process that you must undertake to act as the personal representative (i.e. an executor or an administrator) for someone’s estate. The legislation that governs this process is the Probate and Administration Act. If you have been named in a will then you will need to apply as the executor for a grant of probate. In the absence of a will, if you fulfill the necessary conditions you will need to apply for a letter of administration, to fill the position of an administrator. Both these grants provide the authority needed to manage the estate of the deceased according to their wishes.

If the process of probate is not contested, it should be straightforward. However, if the will is contested by any family members then it can get complicated. The uncontested process of probate, if there is a will, requires approximately two to three months, depending on the complexity. By contrast, if there is no will, the uncontested process of probate would take 6-12 months, depending on the complexity. Of course, where the process is contested, then the duration may be significantly longer. It also requires a number of documents, so it would be preferable to seek legal advice on the process. ## Who can apply? If you are named as the executor in the will of the deceased you can apply for a grant of probate under the Probate and Administration Act. To apply for a grant of probate one must be of sound mind and atleast 21 years old. If you are under the age of 21, a guardian or any individual from the next of kin may be appointed by the Court [1]. You must also not be bankrupt when applying to be eligible to take up the role of an executor.

In the absence of a valid will, as a beneficiary of the estate or a family member one can apply for a letter of administration under the Probate and Administration Act. You must belong to one of the proposed seven categories to qualify [2]. Although any one from these seven classes can apply for a grant, those who rank higher in these seven classes are given preference. Anybody from a lower priority class can apply if they get the renunciation and consent of those higher in priority. You must have reached the age of 21 at the time of the deceased’s death and cannot be bankrupt at the time of applying to be eligible.

To know more about the difference between an executor and administrator and their duties please refer to our article on it available here [3].

If you wish to make the application for a grant of probate or for a letter administration on your own without availing the services of a lawyer you must be residing in Singapore. Otherwise, you will need a lawyer to file the application on your behalf. ## When do you need to apply? You should apply within six months of the death. Any applications filed after six months require the reason for the delay to be explained in the application form.

Things to consider before filing an application for the Grant

Before applying for the grant of probate or a letter of administration you should check the assets that are left by the deceased and the value of these assets [4].

If the value of the estate is not more than $50,000 you can consider applying to the Office of the Public Guardian for the Public Trustee to administer the estate. In this scenario a grant is not required if the Public Trustee agrees to administer the estate [5]. ## The process of Probate The process of probate is similar for both a grant of probate and a letter of administration. Stage 1 includes the filing of the main application. Stage 2 involves filling the Supporting Documents and Stage 3 involves an application to extract the grant of probate or the letter of administration. ### Preparation to make an Application for a Grant: #### If there is a valid will:

For the application, the original will and death certificate of the deceased are required. Ensure that you have these. If any other executors are named in the will and have passed away their death certificate will also be required. If they are still alive but cannot be traced when making the application then the first person applying will be issued the grant provided that the remaining executors are still allowed to apply in their own name.

If there is no will:

To apply for a letter of administration, the original death certificate or the certified true copy of the death certificate of the deceased is required. The birth certificates of the beneficiaries and the original death certificates of any beneficiaries (where there are beneficiaries that have died) would also be required. In the case where a certified true copy of the death certificate, or the original death certificate, is not obtainable, you will have to provide an affidavit stating the reasons why it was not possible to provide the death certificate. ### Stage 1: Filing the Application: #### For a grant of probate:

The Family Justice Courts website [6] provides all the forms that are required for a Grant. The documents that are required are: the ex-parte originating summons (Form 52), a statement for probate or administration (Form 51), a certified true copy of the death certificate, a certified true copy of the will and a caveat and probate search (with attached results).

You will need to visit a lawyer to certify the copy of the death certificate and the will as a true copy.

In practice, your lawyer will file this application electronically using the eLitigation portal. If you wish to make the application without the assistance of a lawyer, you will have to file these documents at the counters of the eLitigation Service Bureaus.

Once these documents are filed, the original will needs to be submitted to the Probate Counter at the Family Justice Court by 4:30pm of the next working day. Once the Court verifies the authenticity of the will, it will be returned.

For a letter of administration:

Most of the same forms stated above are required for the main application for a letter of administration . The ex-parte originating summons, the statement, certified true copies of the death certificate of the deceased along with the caveat and probate search are required. Along with this, the death certificate or the certified true copy of the death certificate of the beneficiaries (where there are beneficiaries who have died) will also be required. ### Stage 2: Submitting the Supporting Documents. After the main application, the process to obtain a grant of probate and a letter of administration is the same.

Once the main application has been filed and if the application is in order, the Court will accept the documents and assign a Family Court Probate number to the application and fix a hearing date. The accepted documents can then be collected from the Service Bureau. The Court on accepting the documents provides a 14 day deadline to sign the Supporting Affidavit and Administration Oath. The Supporting Affidavit and the Administrative Oath will need to be signed in front of a Commissioner for Oaths in Singapore. The Supporting documents also include a final Schedule of Assets.

Upon the acceptance of the main application, you can send out estate inquiries to financial institutions such as banks to get the details of the assets that were owned by the deceased. Most institutions require a certified true copy of the ex-parte Originating Summons before they release the information and therefore you need to wait for the initial filing. The information from the financial institutions helps prepare the Schedule of Assets. The Schedule of Assets should be included in the supporting documents appended to the Supporting Affidavit. If the financial institutions reply within the deadline and all assets can be confirmed, then the Schedule of Assets can be included with the Supporting Affidavit.

However, in most cases financial institutions do not respond immediately and obtaining all the needed information can be a drawn out process. If this happens, then the Supporting Affidavit and Oath can filed within the deadline with the request that the Schedule of Assets be filed later as a Supplementary Affidavit.

Once all the necessary documents are received by the Court, the Court will go through the filed documents at the hearing of the probate application and grant its approval provided there are no complications with the application. ### Step 3: Extraction of the Grant of Probate or the Letter of Administration. Once the Supporting Affidavit (together with the Schedule of Assets) and Administration Oath have been signed, filed and accepted by the Court you can prepare and file a request to extract the grant of probate or the letter of administration.

A final caveat and probate application search needs to be conducted and the results must be filed with the application.

The Court will then provide either an electronic, or paper grant of probate or letter of administration as per your request.

[1] Probate and Administration Act, s21. [2] Intestate Succession Act, s7 provides the classes: your spouse, your children , your parents, your brothers and sisters, your nephews and nieces, your grandparents and uncles and aunts (listed in order of priority). [3 ]https://www.willcraftnow.com/posts/administrators-and-executors-who-what-and-why [4] Some assets such as CPF monies and joint tenancy flats are distributed by their own mechanisms after the death and do not require any additional actions on the part of an administrator or executor. [5] [https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/content/pto/en.html ](https://www.mlaw.gov.sg/content/pto/en.html ) [6] [https://www.familyjusticecourts.gov.sg/resources/forms ](https://www.familyjusticecourts.gov.sg/resources/forms )

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