As we have seen too often, Singaporeans sometimes get into ugly fights over inherited property, end up in court or get their squabbles splashed all over the media.
After all, in Singapore, property investment is a national obsession. Even our “humble” HDB flats are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each, and, in many cases, over $1 million.
Whether you are a HDB owner or will soon inherit a HDB from your parents someday, you must acquaint yourself with the ways of HDB ownership and inheritance rules.
- HDB Co-Owner Passed Away
- HDB Inheritance Rules
- HDB Will Nomination
- HDB Grant of Probate
- HDB Notice of Death
- HDB Inheritance Siblings
- Can foreigners inherit HDB?
- Both HDB owners passed away at the same time
- HDB Intestate Succession Act
- HDB Lasting Power of Attorney
HDB Co-Owner Passed Away
In Singapore, couples commonly buy their flats under the HDB joint-ownership scheme where both hold an equal share.
When one of them passes away, the right of survivorship applies and the other owner will take sole ownership of the flat, as long as he or she fulfils all the eligibility conditions.
In some cases, parents may buy a HDB flat together with a child, as joint owners.
When one owner passes on (be it a parent or the child), the remaining two will take over the flat. He or she or they must be a Singapore Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR), be at least 21 years old, and satisfy all of HDB’s current eligibility rules and conditions to own a flat.
If the HDB flat is bought under a tenancy-in-common scheme (e.g. two singles buying a flat together, or a couple buying the flat under unequal shares such as 70 per cent vs 30 per cent), the deceased person’s share will be split according to whether he or she left a will, or by the Intestate Succession Act (see below).
HDB Inheritance Rules
“How do I inherit my parents (or grandparents’ HDB) or transfer the HDB’s ownership to me?“
If you are your parent’s remaining family member, you can retain your parent’s HDB flat and take over its ownership, as long as you fulfil HDB’s ownership eligibility criteria.
HDB Will Nomination
If the deceased left behind a will, the bereaved family should hire a lawyer to apply for the Grant of Probate. This gives the Executor the legal authority to manage the estate according to the deceased’s wishes.
Low Po-Yu, a senior marketing director with ERA, bought her HDB flat in 2016 from a family who inherited it from their late mother. “The mother had already written a will with a Grant of Probate.
She named her daughter as the Executor of her will, and the daughter acted accordingly. The proceeds from the sale of the flat were then split among the children equally,” said Po-Yu.
In the event that the deceased did not leave behind a will, the Intestate Succession Act will apply. You will need to get a lawyer to apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration.
HDB Grant of Probate
According to The Judiciary Singapore Courts, a Grant of Probate is a legal document that “recognises an individual as the executor of the deceased’s estate”.
The appointed person needs to manage the deceased’s property, any debts, payments, expenses, and execute the will.
For example, my late grandmother visited a lawyer in her 80s to draft a will before she passed. She appointed her daughter as the executor of her will. After she passed, that appointed daughter had to go back to the lawyer, and apply to get the Grant of Probate from the Singapore Court.
After she got the Grant of Probate, she and her siblings, together with the lawyer, had to sell the house and split all of the money and proceeds. The entire process took multiple trips to the lawyer’s firm (lots of paperwork to sign) spanning an entire year.
How do I get a Grant of Probate in Singapore?
If your parents or grandparents wrote their will at a legal firm, the appointed lawyer should help you file for the Grant of Probate.
However, if you’re doing it yourself, you will have to first:
- Check if there are any related cases or caveats via LawNet & Crimson Logic Service Bureau
- Apply for Grant of Probate via LawNet & Crimson Logic Service Bureau
- Present original will for verification to The Family Justice Court’s Probate Registry
Grant of Probate Singapore Cost
It will cost you a total of approximately $300 in admin fees just to get the Grant of Probate in Singapore.
However, if you have a lawyer helping you with the will and Grant of Probate, it might cost you anywhere from $2,000 to $6,500 – inclusive of the lawyer’s time and effort to help you with all the paperwork.
After I get the Grant of Probate…
When the Grant of Letters of Administration or the Grant of Probate has been obtained, either engage your own lawyer or appoint HDB’s to act for you to register your legal right as the Administrator or Executor.
Check with the relevant HDB branch handling the deceased’s flat to make the application. You’ll need:
- Original copy of the Grant of Letters of Administration and Statement for Grant of Letters of Administration, or Grant of Probate
- Original copy of the Syariah Court Inheritance Certificate (for Muslim estates only)
- A copy of the deceased owner’s death certificate
- Duplicate lease of the deceased’s flat
- Identity card(s) of all flat owner(s) and Administrator(s) or Executor(s)
If you are an Administrator or Executor, you will have to:
- Sign the relevant documents
- Pay fees (stamp fees, conveyancing fees, etc.)
- Apply at the HDB Branch that is managing the deceased’s flat to transfer the flat to the beneficiaries as owners, subjected to HDB’s eligibility criteria and conditions governing transfer of flat ownership
Notice of Death HDB
A Notice of Death must be submitted to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) so that it can update the records.
The easy way is to engage HDB’s legal services at the managing HDB branch office nearest to the flat, which will do it for a fee, says Po-Yu.
However, there is a money-saving tip.
“Many people think they have to go via HDB but you can do it yourself, via SLA’s website and fill in the form required to register a Notice of Death,” she says.
However, if you are going to HDB to file a Notice of Death, here’s a checklist of things to bring:
- Printed copy of the authorisation from the surviving spouse (if he or she is unable to do it personally)
- NRIC Identity cards of remaining joint-owners
- Original death certificate (from police or hospital)
- Evidence of estate duty clearance for the deceased owner’s estate (only applicable for death occurring before Feb 15, 2008)
- Duplicate lease (if any)
- Credit card or money to pay Notice of Death registration admin fees
HDB Inheritance Siblings
“My unmarried sibling is living with my mother in our childhood HDB flat. I co-own a [new] HDB flat with my wife. What happens to our family home when my mother passes on?”
If your mum left a will, then you will need to visit the lawyer’s that wrote her will to execute her wishes.
If your mum did not leave a will, the house will have to be sold and the monetary proceeds will be split according to the Intestate Succession Act.
Some parents choose to will the HDB flat to an unmarried child, leaving the other siblings with a much smaller cash inheritance.
“This will be a private family settlement and will depend on whether the unmarried sibling is willing to sell the flat and share the proceeds,” says Po-Yu.
Optional private family settlement
However, he/she has no legal obligation to do so, even if the older siblings had contributed to paying for the flat previously, though this may be a point of contention should the disgruntled siblings decide to fight it out in court. In one happy ending, the youngest sibling who was willed the flat volunteered to sell and share the hefty inheritance in equal parts with his two siblings, which helped them to upgrade their homes.
If the child who inherited the flat already owns a flat, he/she must choose to keep one and sell the other, as HDB does not allow anyone to own two HDB flats.
If a mother dies without leaving a will and the other siblings insist on selling and splitting the profits even if it renders the unmarried sibling homeless, there is nothing the unmarried sibling can do, since he/she is not a legal owner of the flat.
Can foreigners inherit HDB in Singapore?
“My father married a foreigner after his divorce with my mum. If he passes away, will his HDB flat go to his new wife? Or will his children (us) inherit the HDB?”
It depends if your father wrote a will. If he drafted a will and decided to will his entire fortune – money and property – to his new wife, then it will go to her.
However, as a foreigner, she is not allowed to own a HDB flat. In this case, the HDB flat has to be sold first and the monetary proceeds to her.
If he dies without writing a will, the HDB flat will be subjected to the Intestate Succession Act (see below).
In this case, his wife will receive half, while you and your siblings (or half-siblings, if your dad has any children with his new wife) will inherit the other half of it.
Both HDB Owners Passed Away At The Same Time
In the unfortunate event that both owners die together in, say, a car or airplane crash and it is impossible to determine who died first, the court will assume the older person (let’s use the husband for example) passed away first.
Assuming both did not leave behind any will, this is how their HDB flat will be distributed.
The older person, the husband’s estate, including his share of the HDB flat, will go to his wife. Since she is also dead, it will then be distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act.
HDB Intestate Succession Act
This is is a legal act to make provision for the distribution of intestate estates when one dies without leaving a will.
Regardless of how you intended to give away your hard-earned property and money, this is how your estate will be legally distributed.
It is, then, so important that you or your elderly parents prepare a will early into their 40s or 50s before they pass (or are no longer able to make decisions).
If you didn’t leave behind a will, here’s how your property and money will be legally distributed:
- Leave behind spouse: Distribute entirely to spouse
- Leave behind spouse, children: Distribute half to spouse, half to kids (further split equally)
- Leave behind spouse, elderly parents: Distribute half to spouse, half to the deceased’s parent(s)
- Leave behind children: Split between the children equally
- Leave behind elderly parent(s): Distribute entirely to the elderly parent(s)
- Leave behind sibling(s): Split between the deceased’s siblings. If one of the siblings had passed away earlier. then his or her descendants will get his or her share.
- Leave behind grandparents*: Entirely to the grandparent(s)
- Leave behind aunties and uncles**: Split between the deceased’s aunties and uncles
- Leave behind none of the above: Goes to the Government
- I want to leave my assets to charity: You must prepare a will if you want your valuable flat to be left to the right person or even to charity.
*When you leave behind grandparents, it means you leave behind no spouse, kids, parents, siblings, nor descendants of deceased siblings.
**When you leave behind aunties and uncles, it means you leave behind no spouse, kids, parents, siblings, descendants of deceased siblings or grandparent(s).
HDB Lasting Power of Attorney
In addition to making a will, it is also essential for property owners to make a Lasting Power of Attorney, which allows a person who is at least 21 years of age (“donor”), to voluntarily appoint one or more persons (“donee(s)”) to make decisions on property matters and act on his or her behalf should he or she lose mental capacity one day.