• Before Beyond

How to distribute inheritances and close accounts

Updated: May 22, 2021



This is the third article in a three part series on how to deal with post-death matters in the context of death from a terminal illness.


Check out the other two articles in the series to find out more about the tasks that needs to be done in the days to weeks after death.

In this article, the following topics will be addressed:

As you can see, this is a very long to-do list. If you are the sole executor, do consider recruiting the help of your family members and delegating the work if possible. FYI, as of 15 February 2008, is no inheritance tax (estate duty) in Singapore.


Upon registration of death, all government organisations will be automatically notified of the death, thereby kickstarting some of the processes described below.


You would need to notify private entities (e.g. banks, employers) and your deceased loved one's lawyer or solicitor (if applicable). Have all the following documents ready as you will need to furnish it very often:

  • Letter of Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration (see below)

  • Deceased's death certificate

  • Deceased's last will and testament

  • Deceased's marriage certificate, divorce certificate (if applicable)

  • Deceased's children's birth certificate

  • Deceased's bank account information

  • Deceased's list of assets and proof of ownership

  • NRIC and other identification documents of all executors and beneficiaries

  • Beneficiaries' bank account information



How to access the deceased's estate


If there is a valid will


The deceased person's next-of-kin will have to apply to court to obtain a Grant of Probate. A Grant of Probate is a legal document (usually a one page certificate with a red stamp and signature) that allows the executor to carry out the instructions in the will.


If the gross value of the deceased's estate does not exceed $3 million, file the application in the Family Justice Courts. If the gross value of the estate exceeds $3 million, fill the application in the Family Division of the High Court. You can engage a probate lawyer to assist you with these procedures as there are many complicated forms to file.


In order to apply for a Grant of Probate, you will require:

  • Particulars of the deceased including details about the death

  • Particulars of the applicant

  • Estimated value of the estate

  • Certified true copy of the will

  • Certified true copy of the death certificate

If the will is not valid (e.g. if it is undated, not signed properly) or if there is a contest for the administration of the deceased's estate, the process of applying for a probate can become more complicated and you will need to consult a lawyer on how to proceed.


The entire process of filing can 2-6 months. It can take an additional few months if you need to send out estate inquiries to the various relevant financial institutions in order to collate a list of all the deceased's assets (known as Schedule of Assets) if it is unknown.


After successfully filing of all documents and paying of fees, you will then be able to receive the Grant of Probate! A non-contentious probate cost can range from $1,020-$6,500 while a contentious probate cost can be $10,000-$40,000.


For more details on the legal processes involved, visit this website.


Once you have the Grant of Probate, you can show the document to financial institutions to extract the assets of the deceased and distribute them in the amounts specified by the will.


Gaining access to the deceased's assets and distribution of the assets are a lot easier if the deceased's has a valid will. Anyone above the age of 21 years old who is cognitively intact can make a will.



If there is no valid will


The next-of-kin will have to apply to court to obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration and the deceased's estate must then be distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act for non-Muslims or the Administration of Muslim Law Act and Syariah Law for Muslims.


The Grant of Letters of Administration is a legal document that authorises a person to be the administrator of the deceased's estate. Only relatives can apply to be administrators although there is still an order of priority to adhere to. The court can appoint up to four administrators but they must act together to distribute the assets.


You can engage a lawyer to assist you with the application for a Grant of Letters of Administration as there are many complicated forms to file.


Once you have the Grant of Letters of Administration, you can show the document to financial institutions to extract the assets of the deceased and distribution it according to the governing laws.


Division of assets under the Intestate Succession Act (for non-Muslims)


Division of assets under the Syariah Law (for Muslims)


If the deceased's estate is not more than $50,000 and there are no outstanding debts and liabilities, it may be more convenient to apply for a Public Trustee to administer the estate in accordance with the law (i.e. the government becomes the administrator of the estate).


Application for a Public Trustee to administer your deceased loved one's estate can be done online with a SingPass account. There will be a minimum fee of $15 with additional charges based on the value of the estate (ranging 2.25-6.5%) and GST. These fees will be deducted from the deceased's estate.


The documents that you have to provide depends on if you are a non-Muslim or a Muslim. The estimate duration of time for processing and to receive the distributed assets is 4 weeks from the date of receipt of full documentation.


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How to access the deceased's CPF savings


CPF savings are not covered by the making of a will and hence you should ensure that you have made CPF nominations (it only takes 5 minutes if you have all the information ready with you).


Registration of death will notify all government organisations of the death, including the CPF board.


If the deceased had made CPF nominations


Nominees will receive a letter from CPF board 1-2 weeks from the point of their loved one's death. The letter will inform them that they are entitled to a certain proportion of the deceased's CPF savings. They will need to log on to the CPF website to acknowledge this nomination and provide details e.g. bank account information to facilitate the transfer.


In the next 1-2 weeks, CPF will then transfer the deceased's CPF savings directly into the nominated members' bank accounts (unless the deceased had opted for a cash or cheque option).


If the deceased had not made CPF nominations


The CPF savings will transferred to the Public Trustee's Office for distribution of the savings to the next-of-kin in accordance with the intestacy laws (for non-Muslims) and inheritance certificate (for Muslims).


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How to obtain insurance payouts


Private Insurance Policies


Sometimes, the deceased may already have kept a detailed record of their insurance policies with a loved one or stores in My Legacy Vault. Otherwise, you might have to go through his/her personal belongings or contact their insurance agents/companies individually in order to ascertain what insurance policies they had.


Nominated beneficiaries of the deceased's private insurance policies will have to contact the private insurance companies directly in order to process the death claims.


Dependent's Protection Scheme (DPS)


The DPS is an opt-out term life insurance scheme for all eligible CPF members who are Singapore citizens/Permanent Residents between 21-60 years old. From 1 April 2021 onwards, Great Eastern Life will be the sole insurer to administer DPS. The sum assured is up to $70,000 from 21-60 years old and up to $55,000 from 60-65 years old.


If the deceased had made DPS nominations prior to death, the assured amount will be paid to the nominee(s). If no nomination is made, the benefits will be paid to Proper Claimant(s) with reference to Section 61 of the Insurance Act (Chapter 142 of Singapore). A Proper Claimant can be the Executor of the deceased's estate or family member e.g. spouse, parent, child or sibling.


The death claim application can be submitted to Great Eastern Life via this link.


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Notifying the deceased's employer


Employers will need to settle all outstanding salary owed to the deceased employee, if applicable. Some companies also have benefit payment for employees who pass on while still in active pay status. Do contact the human resource department to find out more about each company's practices.


The company may also reach out to you to return the belongings of your deceased loved one.


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Transferring of property ownership


If the property in question is owned under joint-tenancy, upon the death of one of the owners, the surviving owner gets 100% of the property (this is not affect by the presence or absence of a will). To change the name of the property owner, you will need to file a Notice of Death to Singapore Land Authority (SLA) for them to update the Land Title document (i.e. the Certificate of Title of duplicate lease).



If the deceased was the sole owner of a property or had a tenancy-in-common arrangement, the probate process will apply: after obtaining the Grant of Probate, you can lodge a Transmission Application on Death of Proprietor form to SLA.


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Closure of bank accounts


Upon notification of death, banks will typically freeze the bank accounts of the deceased such that no withdrawals (including GIRO deductions) can be made.


The legal representative of the deceased's estate will have to provide the required documents (e.g. deceased's will, letter of grant of probate or grant of administration, executor's identification documents) to withdraw the deceased's savings and close the bank account(s).


If the bank account in question is a joint bank account, the balance in the account will automatically belong to the surviving owner upon the death of the other owner.


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Transfer of investments


In Singapore, the Central Depository (Pte) Ltd (CDP) holds all investments in equities and bonds.


Upon death, you will need to update the deceased's securities account to an estate account via a form and approach CDP with the required documents (e.g. deceased's will, letter of grant of probate or grant of administration, executor's identification documents, schedule of assets). You can make an appointment to minimise waiting time at CDP Customer Service.


Subsequently, a request to transfer the securities to the beneficiaries can be made by executing a Form 1 (Regulation 11(4)). There will be a transfer fee of $10.70 per counter for each transfer request.


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Bills and other miscellaneous items


Check for any outstanding debts and recurring bills such as:

  • Electricity and water bills

  • Telephone bills

  • News subscriptions

  • Credit card debts

  • Rental payments

Ensure all debts are paid with the deceased's savings before distributing the inheritance. Contact all relevant companies to cancel recurring payments and subscriptions.


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Closure of social media accounts


Keeping the deceased's social media accounts may be away to allow their digital identity to continue to exist and to serve as a form of memorialisation. However, some are concerned that holding on to the social media accounts of the deceased may contribute to complicated grief (many factors contribute to this) or pose risks such as identity theft.


Most social media corporations will not allow you to access the deceased's accounts but will allow you to delete it on the deceased's behalf. You will need to provide documents such as the deceased's death certificate and proof of your relationship to the deceased e.g. letter of Grant of Probate, birth certificate, marriage certificate.


Here is a list of links to close accounts on common social media platforms:


Facebook and Instagram has an option to memorialise the Facebook profile of a deceased member. Facebook pages will show the word "Remembering" in front of the person's name; people will still allowed to post on the timeline but they will not receive birthday reminders.


Alternatively, if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness but you would like your loved ones to manage your account after your passing, you can give them access to your passwords so that they can manage or deactivate your accounts after your passing.


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Re-writing your own will and updating your insurance plans


Last but not least, if your own will or insurances included the deceased as one of the beneficiaries, you can consider re-writing your will and updating the beneficiaries in your insurance plans in order to be properly prepared for your own demise.


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Conclusion


That was a very long list of instructions! It can be a lot of work for someone to do while grappling with the emotional pain from losing a loved one. Do recruit the help of family and friends to help with the administrative burden, if possible.


Check out the other two articles in the series to find out more about the tasks that needs to be done in the days to weeks after death.


References

Singapore Legal Advice


The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. All information and content available on this website are for general informational purposes only. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date information.

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