When someone passes away without leaving behind a will, there must be a designated individual to administer their estate. This process is known as the Grant of Letters of Administration. This legal document outlines individuals who are legally recognised as administrators of the deceased’s estate, affairs, liabilities, and other assets.
This guide discusses the definition, importance of an estate administrator, and how to apply for one. A loved one’s estate may only be distributed and managed under the Intestate Succession Act or Muslim law for Muslims. If you wish to apply for a Grant of Letters, it’s best to set expectations for the process.
1. What Are Letters Of Administration?
Letters of administration are documents required to distribute a departed loved one’s estate. They are issued by the Family Justice Courts, which authorise individuals named in the grant to act as administrators.
Letters of administration are issued when an individual has passed away without leaving behind a will. But if they have written a will before passing, those who wish to become executors of the estate must apply for a Grant of Probate instead.
2. When Is The Best Time To Apply For A Grant Of Letters Of Administration?
Generally, the best time to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration is when the individual passes away without having drafted a will beforehand. You must duly fill out the application form, secure the necessary documents, and have your application approved by the Courts before you can legally administer the deceased’s estate.
There are cases wherein you are required to apply for a Grant of Letters if there is a will, but there is also a failure on the executor in these situations:
- The deceased has not appointed an executor in the will
- The executor(s) appointed by the deceased have refused their right to manage and distribute the deceased’s estate.
- The intended executor(s) pass away before the testator (one who has drafted the will).
- The executor(s) pass away before they can secure probate or administer the remainder of the deceased’s estate; or
- The executor(s) fail to appear and do not extract the Grant of Probate.
As previously discussed, the Family Justice Courts issue the Letters of Administration to the closest next of kin who has applied to administer the deceased’s estate. The responsibilities and framework in executing the estate are outlined in the Intestate Succession Act or Probate and Administration Act (if in the presence of a will).
3. Who Can Apply For A Grant Of Letters Of Administration?
Before administering the estate, the designated administrator should first pay taxes, debts, liabilities, funeral costs, and other expenses incurred by the deceased. Only then can they legally distribute the remaining assets according to the ISA.
So who can apply for the grant? Section 18 of the Probate and Administration Act (PAA) states that the deceased’s spouse, next-of-kin, or both, can apply to the Courts for a Grant of Letters of Administration.
However, the ISA also designates seven classes of individuals entitled to apply for the same grant. They must be related to the deceased in some degree, as follows:
- Brothers and sisters
- Nieces and nephews
- Aunts and uncles
The spouse is the highest priority when applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration. However, they may refuse to administer the deceased’s estate.
For instance, the spouse may be physically incapacitated or lives overseas. They may have the children apply as administrators, provided they are 21 and above.
If the children are below 21 years of age, they are not allowed to be administrators. Additionally, there should be at least two appointed administrators if one or more of the beneficiaries are below 21.
If the person entitled to the grant is an infant or a minor, the guardian will take their place and apply on their behalf. The same rule applies to mentally disordered individuals. Their guardian or anyone responsible for managing their affairs can apply for the grant.
4. How To Apply For An Administration Grant In Singapore?
The Family Justice Courts in Singapore have prepared a Probate & Administration Toolkit should you wish to apply for the grant. This guide contains everything you need to know about applying for a Grant of Letters.
Below is a brief overview of the application process:
- Step 1: Ensure all necessary documents are ready.
- Step 2: Conduct caveat searches and check if there are existing probate applications on the estate.
- Step 3: Apply for the grant
- Step 4: Submit the supporting affidavit and administration oath
- Step 5: Submit the Request to Extract Grant form
Step 1: Ensure All Necessary Documents Are Ready
Prepare the following documents before applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration:
- Schedule of Assets (Form 226) – This form lists all the deceased’s assets in Singapore or overseas. It also lists any outstanding debts in Singapore which are secured through a mortgage.
Suppose you are not sure about the status of their assets. In that case, you may need to contact relevant financial institutions like the Housing and Development Board, local banks, finance companies, brokers, creditors, etc.
Remember that you can only prepare the Schedule of Assets once your Grant of Letters of Administration has been accepted.
- Service Bureau Form For Application For Letters Of Administration – This form outlines the deceased’s assets in Singapore and overseas. It also outlines any outstanding debts which are secured by a mortgage.
Other supporting documents you may need include:
- The deceased’s death certificate
- Next-of-kin’s death certificates (if any)
- Inheritance certificate (if any)
- Divorce certificates (if any)
Unless indicated in the toolkit, you may download all the forms from the Singapore eLitigaton website.
Take note that the law requires you to testify before a solicitor on the veracity of any documents you submit.
Step 2: Conduct Caveat Searches And Check If There Are Existing Probate Applications On The Estate
Remember to electronically file all your documents and applications through the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau at 133 New Bridge Road, Chinatown Point #19-01/02, Singapore 059413.
You will also need to search for existing caveats and probate applications at the Service Bureau. Once you finish researching, attach the complete summary reports to the rest of your application documents.
Step 3: Apply For The Grant
The Service Bureau will file your application to the Courts on your behalf. The Service Bureau will use your application to prepare these other documents:
- Originating application
- Schedule of Assets
- Probate statement
Expect to wait for one to three weeks after submitting your application. Avoid an extension by triple-checking all information you have provided in the forms. Otherwise, you might overlook some errors, which may require a Court explanation.
The Service Bureau will notify you through SMS if your application has been approved. Secure all your approved forms and documents.
Step 4: Submit The Supporting Affidavit And Administration Oath
The Supporting Affidavit confirms in writing that everything included in your application is true. You will need to swear before the Court.
Make sure to file the Supporting Affidavit within two weeks or 14 days after the Originating Summons has been filed.
Meanwhile, you’ll need to take an Administration Oath. It is a legal testament that you will faithfully administer and manage the deceased’s assets. A Commissioner of Oaths must be present during the oath-taking.
If there are no hitches in the application process, expect the Court to approve your application. You will receive an “Order in Terms” and know the application result after the Court gives you a letter requesting the grant extraction.
Step 5: Submit The Request To Extract Grant Form
This form is a request by you to the Court to issue a Grant of Letters of Administration. You will need to fill out and confirm several details in the form. (i.e., that you have conducted the proper research for any existing probates and caveats and acted accordingly.)
After extracting the grant, you are now authorised to manage the deceased person’s estate.
5. How Will Assets Be Distributed Through A Letter Of Administration?
According to Section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act, the deceased’s assets must be distributed as so:
- If the deceased had a spouse, but no children nor parents, then the spouse will get everything,
- If the deceased had a spouse and children, the spouse would get 50% of the assets. The other half of the assets will be proportionately distributed to the remaining children.
- If the deceased only had children, they would all get a proportional share of the assets.
- If the deceased has a spouse and a parent/s, then the parent/s get equal portions or shares of the assets.
- If the deceased only had siblings but no children or parents, the siblings get everything in equal portions. Or, the children of the deceased brother or sister will be entitled to the assets.
- If the deceased only had grandparents and no other relatives, the grandparents are entitled to everything in equal portions.
- If the deceased only had aunts and uncles and no other family members or relatives, the aunts and uncles take everything in equal portions.
- Without living relatives, family members, siblings, etc., the government will take all the assets.
The application process to become an estate administrator can be complicated. You’ll need to secure the correct forms and submit the proper documents accordingly.
If you’re still unsure about how to apply for the grant, you may reach out to any of our Singapore lawyers here at Tembusu Law. We offer a free 30-minute consultation to help discuss the details of your case.
Frequently Asked Questions About Letters Of Administration Singapore
What Is The Cost Of A Letter Of Administration In Singapore?
The application process for applying for a Grant of Letters can cost you anywhere between $900 to $1,200.
What Happens To The Estate If The Deceased Was A Muslim Or Died While Overseas?
The Administration of Muslim Law Act and Syariah Law would apply to Muslims who have passed away without writing a will.
If the person died overseas, you need to secure a death certificate from foreign authorities with corresponding English translations if the document is not in English.
Why Do I Need To Conduct A Probate And Caveat Search?
You have to search for existing probate cases and caveats because the Court may not issue a grant if there are any existing applications.
What Is A Renunciation?
A renunciation is when a person entitled to administer the estate has given up their right to do so. They will need to sign a document confirming their renunciation.