1. Home
  2. Planning Ahead
  3. How your estate is distributed if you do not have a will

How your estate is distributed if you do not have a will

When a person dies without leaving a will, he is said to have died intestate. Property left behind by a deceased (known as the estate) is usually dealt with by the personal representative of the deceased. If you do not have a will, the law decides how your assets are distributed, even if the consequences may seem unfair and undesirable. Having a will gives you the comfort of knowing that the rewards of your life’s work will be distributed and managed according to your wishes, such as giving a portion to the charity of your choice. Sometimes, even if a person has a will, the will may not be properly drafted and certain assets are left out of the will. These assets will also fall into intestacy.

Rules of Distribution under Intestate Succession Act (Cap. 146)

After all the owed taxes and debts are paid, the assets are distributed in the following order.

Rule Surviving Absent Who gets what
1 Spouse No Issue
No Parent
100% to surviving spouse.
2 Spouse
Issue
n.a. 50% to surviving spouse.
50% to be shared equally among issue and, where they have already died, their children.
Parents are not entitled.
3 Issue No Spouse 100% to be shared equally among issue and, where they have already died, their children.
Parents are not entitled.
4 Spouse
Parent
No Issue 50% to surviving spouse.
50% to be shared equally among surviving parents.
5 Parents No Spouse
No Issue
100% to be shared equally among surviving parents.
6 Siblings No Spouse
No Issue
No Parents
100% to be shared equally among deceased’s siblings and, where they have already died, their children.
7 Grandparents No Spouse
No Issue
No Parents
No Siblings and their children
100% to be shared equally among surviving grandparents.
8 Uncles and Aunts No Spouse
No Issue
No Parents
No Siblings and their children
No Grandparents
100% to be shared equally among surviving uncles and aunts.
9  None No Spouse
No Issue
No Parents
No Siblings and their children
No Grandparents
No Uncles and Aunts
Government takes everything

* Spouse refers to husband or wife.
* Issue means a child (legitimate or legally adopted) and the descendants of a deceased’s child. Illegitimate children and transferred children are NOT entitled under the Intestacy Rules.

Administrators and Letters of administration

Administrators are appointed when the deceased dies without leaving behind a will. (Executors only come into play where the deceased left behind a valid will before his death.)

The process for appointing an administrator or administrators is known as Grant of Letters of Administration. These letters of administration serve as a court order authorising a person to be appointed as the administrator to administer the estate and distribute the assets in accordance with Singapore’s laws.

The court is empowered to appoint whoever it thinks ought to be granted the letters of administration. Such a grant can be made to any member of the classes of beneficiaries under the Intestate Succession Act. The Act sets out seven classes of persons who, in descending order of priority, are entitled to apply for a grant. They are:

  1. the spouse;
  2. the children of the deceased;
  3. the parents;
  4. brothers and sisters;
  5. nephews and nieces;
  6. grandparents; and
  7. uncles and aunts.

At least two administrators (or a trust corporation) must be appointed if one or more beneficiaries of the estate are below 21.

Bankrupts and infants cannot be appointed as administrators. Where a person entitled to a grant is an infant such a grant will be made to his guardian, or if he had attained the age of 16 years to any next of kin that the infant may nominate.

Some considerations if you do not have a will

  • Your estate may not be distributed according to your intentions
  • You will not have a choice of the person who would be distributing and administering your estate (i.e. your executor(s)). Instead, the courts would appoint personal representatives.
  • You cannot decide who would be your children’s guardian
  • If you are in the midst of a divorce where final judgment has not been granted, your surviving spouse may be entitled to a significant portion of your estate.
  • If there is no surviving spouse, but children and parents are still around, then the children will automatically get everything. In the unfortunate event that both you and your spouse pass on suddenly, your ageing parents will receive nothing for their old age.

Distribute of estate of a Muslim

If the person who died was a Muslim, the estate will be distributed in line with Section 112 of the Administration of Muslim Law Act according to the school of the Muslim law the person observed. The Certificate of Inheritance issued by Syariah Court will list down the beneficiaries and their share of the inheritance.

The best inheritance a father can leave his children is a good example. – John Walter Bratton

Updated on January 22, 2018

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Leave a Comment