Most of the HDBs in Singapore are held in joint tenancy. Under joint tenancy, if one of the flat owners passes away, the deceased joint tenant’s share or interest in the flat will be passed on to the surviving joint tenant(s).
For example, husband and wife (both above 21 years old) are holding the flat under joint tenancy. If the husband passes away, the surviving wife can take over the flat as the sole lessee if she is a Singapore Citizen or Singapore PR. If the lease had already been issued for the flat, a legal document known as the Notice of Death instrument will have to be prepared and lodged with the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to allow the authorities to update the land records accordingly.
This may seem to be straightforward, but the complication comes thereafter as the surviving spouse is the sole-owner now. It is a similar situation if the flat is held under Tenant-in-Common.
If there is a Will:
The deceased’s interest in the flat will be distributed according to the Will. The deceased’s family should engage a private solicitor to apply to the Courts for a Grant of Probate. (The Grant of Probate is a Court Order that gives the legal authority to the Executor to administer the deceased’s estate. The Executor is the person named in a Will to administer the deceased’s estate. )
If there is no Will
The deceased’s interest in the flat will be distributed according to the provisions of the Intestate Succession Act. The deceased’s family should engage a private solicitor to apply to the Courts for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This is a Court Order that gives the legal authority to the Administrator to administer the deceased’s estate. The Administrator is the person administering the deceased’s estate.
Once the Grant of Letters of Administration or the Grant of Probate has been obtained, the Administrator(s) / Executor(s) can engage their own solicitors or appoint HDB solicitors to act for them to register their legal right as the Administrator(s) / Executor(s).
Note in either case, the remaining family or single occupier is only allowed to retain the existing flat if:
- he / she is a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR)
- he / she is at least 21 years old
- he / she satisfies HDB’s prevailing eligibility rules and conditions to own a flat
Therefore, if both parents pass away leaving minor children, the situation will be more complicated. A proper estate planning is crucial to address such issues.
There are many other problems of passing on an HDB flat without a will. As a Professional Estate Planner, I help many clients set up a proper will to avoid all these issues and save your loved ones from unnecessary emotional and financial burdens.