Applying For A Grant Of Probate
Things To Consider
The importance of having a carefully drafted will goes a long way in properly safeguarding an individual’s wishes on how their estate is to be distributed following their demise. A carefully drafted will avoids complicating the distribution process as well as lengthy lawsuits from beneficiaries and other interested parties.
However, when distributing a deceased’s estate in accordance with their will, a vital consideration is the need to apply for a grant of probate (GOP), which legally recognizes an executor’s status and authority to administer the deceased’s estate. A GOP is a legal requirement for the executor to administer certain assets in the deceased’s estate.
Here is a brief overview on what to consider when applying for a GOP:
Before distributing a deceased’s estate to beneficiaries, there naturally are the fundamental issues of identifying and valuing the assets left behind by said deceased.
Assuming that the deceased’s will has been carefully drafted, identifying these assets should prove to be a relatively simple matter. The will should provide a comprehensive breakdown of these assets as well as the intended beneficiaries.
After identifying the assets left behind by the deceased, the corollary would be the beneficiaries wishing to find out how valuable each of these assets are.
For cash, which is a highly common asset, there is virtually little to no issue determining its self-explanatory value.
However, this would not be the case for many other assets such as personal possessions and real estate, where there is room for ambiguity on their true value. Furthermore, where some wills purport to provide a numerical value on such assets, disputes may arise as to the accuracy of these provided values. Hence, where such assets are involved, it is necessary to engage the services of a professional valuer / appraiser in order to affix an accurate numerical value to each of these assets.
Checking with institutions to determine which assets require a GOP to be distributed
Some assets such as Central Provident Fund monies, flats held under joint tenancies, and certain types of insurance policies with nominations are exempt from the requirement for the executor to possess a GOP before distributing them. To be certain on whether this exemption holds true for a particular asset, it is necessary to check with the relevant institutions such as the Housing Development Board, Central Provident Fund Board, and banks on this matter.
Liaising with institutions to distribute assets which do not require a GOP to be distributed
If a GOP is not required to distribute an asset, there is no need to apply for one to begin with. The executor can directly liaise with the relevant institution to arrange for the asset to be distributed to its intended beneficiary.
Ways to apply for a GOP
Once it is established that a GOP is required to distribute an asset, the next step would be making an application for one.
A common way to go about making the application is through engaging solicitors to assist in the process, with solicitors’ fees usually being paid out of the deceased’s estate. Alternatively, if you qualify for legal aid, applying through the Legal Aid Bureau is another plausible option to consider. If you are able to act in person, you may also wish to personally apply to the court.
On average, the time taken to apply for a GOP ranges 3 to 6 months. However, for estates with more complicated assets to handle, the GOP application process could take longer.
Liaising with the Public Trustee (PT) to distribute an estate worth less than S$50,000
Lastly, the Public Trustee (PT) is an additional key consideration when distributing a deceased’s estate, and it ties in with the earlier point on the importance of asset valuation.
Should the deceased’s estate be valued at S$50,000 or less, there is the additional option of engaging the PT to administer the estate instead of leaving this responsibility with the executor. The main benefit of engaging the PT lies in the fact that there is no need to apply for a GOP, which helps to save time and costs.
We understand that applying for a GOP, as well as distributing an estate, may prove to be complicated matters. Be that as it may, our up-to-date knowledge and expertise on these matters can help to simplify and expedite the relevant processes for you.
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