Family and Probate Practice
We have assisted clients to extract grants of probate and letters of administration and have handled both contentious and non-contentious probate matters involving cross-border elements. We also regularly receive requests from clients to advise them on asset planning and to assist in the preparation of wills and lasting powers of attorney. We have also advised on matters in relation to the adoption and guardianship of children.
Applications for Extraction of Grants of Probate
In situations where the deceased has made a will during his lifetime, the Grant of Probate is the court order which must be obtained by his executor(s) in order to deal with the deceased’s assets in the manner as set out in the deceased’s will. The executor’s duties include the realisation and distribution of the deceased’s assets to his specified beneficiaries.
Whilst most applications for grants of probate are non-contentious, there are instances where the matter may be of a contentious nature, for instance, where there are disputes between beneficiaries on the entitlement to the assets of the deceased. In such cases, seeking legal advice is important.
Applications for Extraction of Letters of Administration
In situations where the deceased did not make any will and died intestate, letters of administration will need to be extracted from the courts by the deceased’s personal representative (s) in order to handle his assets. In cases where the deceased has passed away without making a will, his assets will be distributed in accordance with the provisions of the Probate and Administration Act. The aforesaid sets out the factual scenario that we see most frequently.
However, letters of administration may be required where there is a failure of executor for instance, where the executor stated in the will has refused to act or is unavailable to act.
In addition, where the deceased is a foreign national with assets in Singapore and has died intestate, an affidavit containing a description the manner of distribution of assets based on the laws of his native country may be required.
If the deceased was a Muslim domiciled in Singapore, the above would not be applicable and the Administration of Muslim Law Act and Syariah law would apply instead.
Preparation of Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney
A will is a legal document that contains your wishes in relation to the distribution of your assets (subject to the payment of your debts) and care arrangements for minor children and dependents in the event of your death.
In contrast to wills which orders a person’s affairs post-death, Lasting Powers of Attorney, or living wills, is a legal instrument that allows you to set out how you would like to manage your affairs in the event of a loss of mental capacity.
The proper preparation of wills and lasting powers of attorney can avoid unnecessary disputes in the family over the management of a person’s financial and personal affairs and ensure that the individual’s wishes over his affairs are is properly recorded and adhered to by his personal representatives.
Contested and Uncontested Divorces
Under Singapore law, there are, in summary, five facts that an applicant must show to satisfy the requirement that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage:
- That the applicant’s spouse has committed adultery, and the applicant find it intolerable to live with his/her spouse;
- That the applicant’s spouse has behaved in such a way that the applicant cannot reasonably be expected to live with his/her spouse;
- That the applicant’s spouse has deserted him/her for at least two years and does not intend to return;
- That the parties have been separated for at least 3 years and the applicant’s spouse consents to the divorce; and
- That the parties have been separated for at least 4 years notwithstanding the fact that applicant’s spouse does not agree to the divorce.
The divorce process can be simplified in the event parties are in agreement on all of issues in relation to the divorce. However, in cases of acrimonious divorces, the process can take 12 to 18 months and will involve higher legal fees.
Adoption and Guardianship of Children
Adoption is a process whereby parental rights over a child are given by the court to the applicants and the child’s ties to the birth parents are severed. In Singapore, child adoption is primarily regulated by the Adoption of Children Act (ACA) and adoption cases are heard by the Family Justice Court.
As there are various requirements and conditions which must be met for adoption of children under ACA, it is important to seek out legal advisor who can serve as a guiding hand throughout this process.
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