In this article we’ll be guiding you through the process of obtaining a Grant of Probate in Singapore.

A will sets out what a person would like done with their assets and possessions after death, referred to as their estate.

A will also appoints executors to distribute the deceased’s wealth and possessions. However, the will alone does not give the executors the power to do this; they must apply for a grant of probate.

Probate is only relevant where the deceased has left a valid will. If there is no will, the will is missing, or invalid for some reason, then a different process applies known as grant of Letters of Administration.

The court in Singapore issues a grant of probate, and the application can be complicated thus it is usually a good idea to hire a lawyer to complete the formalities for you.

What is a grant of probate?

A grant of probate is a court order that gives the executors named in the will the authority to distribute the estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes. A grant of probate is required if the estate value is S$50,000 or more.

Who can apply for a grant of probate in Singapore?

When a person writes a will, they must appoint two people to act as their executors. The executors or their designated representatives have the authority to apply for the grant of probate.

When they receive the grant, this gives them the legal authority to distribute the deceased’s estate.

What is the process to apply for a grant of probate in Singapore?

Although most wills are straightforward, many people use a solicitor to apply for a grant of probate on their behalf because the process is complicated, especially for complex or high-value estates.

The executors named in the will can appoint a solicitor. The executor or their appointed solicitor must prepare several documents that form the basis of the application for a grant of probate.

Originating summons

Applicants or their solicitors must prepare an originating summons. This form is available from the Family Justice Courts.

The originating summons is often described as ‘ex parte’; all this means is no one other than the executor is involved in the application.

This document requests information such as the details of the person who has died, the applicant, and what court order is sought.

Form 51

Form 51 is the statement for probate or administration (if there’s no valid will). This asks for information about the deceased concerning their death, their country of domicile, and the estate’s value.

The form also requires confirmation that the will is a certified true copy. The original will is submitted to the Family Justice Courts for authentication.

The applicant must confirm that they are an executor named in the will or appointed to act on their behalf.

The form also asks whether the application is within six months of the date of the deceased’s death. If the period is longer, the applicant must give a valid reason for this, e.g., an inquiry into the circumstances or cause of death.

Certified copy of the death certificate

This is described as a copy because the original is the record of the death from which any death certificates flow.

A certified copy of the death certificate (which many people describe as a death certificate) is distinct from a photocopy, which is unacceptable evidence of death.

Certified true copy of the will

The will requires the attachment of a cover page which states, “This is a certified true copy of the original will of (with the name of the deceased) dated (insertion of date).

The will must be in English; obtaining an official translation with a supporting affidavit will be necessary if it is in another language.

Once the will has been authenticated, it is returned to the executor or their solicitor.

Caveat and probate search

The applicant must attach a certificate of results of caveat and probate application searches. This officially confirms that after a search, no other probate application has been found in connection with this estate.

This search must be made on the day of the probate application, and a digital copy must be attached to the originating summons.

Submission of the application

Documents are filed electronically, after which a provisional probate case number is allocated.

Administration oath

The executor or their solicitor must give an undertaking to the court that they will distribute the deceased’s estate in line with the instructions in the will. This is called an administration oath, required by section 28 of the Probate and Administration Act.

The executor or their legal representative must sign the administration oath in the presence of a commissioner for oaths.

Supporting affidavit

Within a couple of weeks of filing the administration oath, a supporting affidavit is required, and the executor must sign this in the presence of a commissioner for oaths.

Schedule of assets

The schedule of assets lists the deceased’s property in Singapore when they died, including any outstanding debts.

There should be a value for personal effects: bank accounts, stocks and shares, insurance policies, vehicles, and other valuables like jewellery.

It is also a requirement to list any property the deceased owned outside Singapore.

It can take time to prepare a schedule of assets, so sometimes the supporting affidavit is submitted without the schedule.

Court hearing

The court sets a date for the probate hearing. Attending may not be necessary if the executor or their solicitor has already filed all the documents.

When all the documents are in order, and the appropriate fees are paid, the court will prepare and issue the grant of probate.

Inheritance tax in Singapore

The Estate Duty Act (EDA) contains the rules surrounding inheritance tax. Section 2A of the EDA states that inheritance tax is only payable by people who died before 15 February 2008. The executors of anyone dying after that date will not have to pay inheritance tax on the deceased’s estate.

Inheritance tax was abolished because the reason for its introduction – to distribute wealth for the development and benefit of the population as a whole and to increase social equity – seemed to have become gradually more and more redundant.

Accumulating money is not just achieved by inheritance but through entrepreneurship, often involving people who started with nothing rather than ‘family money’, making this type of taxation less relevant.

Removing the burden of inheritance tax is also more likely to encourage high-net-worth individuals to work and invest in Singapore, which achieves societal benefit and distribution of wealth in a more positive way.

Final Thoughts

Many people instruct legal professionals to help them administer an estate. The process of applying for a grant of probate can be daunting to those not experienced in this area and comes at a time when that person may also be coping with the burden of grief.

A specialist solicitor can prepare and expedite an application for a grant of probate. Although not a legal requirement – an individual can apply in their capacity as named executor of the deceased’s estate – it is often quicker and less stressful to ask a third-party professional to do the legwork for you.

This content was written and reviewed by a lawyer but it does not constitute legal advice. We always recommend engaging a lawyer before taking any legal action.

Frequently asked questions

Is a grant of probate always necessary to administer an estate?

Estates valued at S$50,000 or less will not require a grant of probate for distribution. If the estate is not more than S$50,000 in value and there are no outstanding liabilities or debts, the executors can choose to apply to the public trustee to administer the estate.

However, the public trustee cannot act if there are conflicting claims to the estate or disputes among the potential beneficiaries. The public trustee charges a fee based on a percentage of the estate’s value.

Which court determines probate applications in Singapore?

The Family Justice Courts determine probate applications where the estate is valued at S$3 million or less. For estates over S$3 million in value, the application for probate is made to the Family Division of the High Court.

How long does it take to obtain a grant of probate in Singapore?

On average, most people receive a grant of probate within 4-6 weeks of filing the last document.

Delays occur in complicated estates where there are lots of different assets to be identified and valued or when the case is contentious.

What happens if there is no valid will?

If someone dies without a valid will, then this is described as an intestacy – they have died intestate. There are rules which govern what should happen to their estate.

A grant of probate is not possible as there is no will, but instead, power is invested in the applicant via a document called letters of administration. The Intestate Succession Act (ISA) details seven classes of people in descending order of priority who can apply to administer the intestacy. Because there is no will, there are strict rules about who will inherit.