When a person passes away, that person’s estate does not automatically transfer to his or her intended beneficiaries. A legal document known as a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration must be obtained (or in legal terms, extracted) by the appropriate person (known as a personal representative) in order for authority to be given to this person to manage the deceased’s estate.

  • The difference between the two lies in whether a person left behind a valid Will. The Singapore Family Justice Courts will require a Grant of Probate to be extracted if there is a valid Will left behind by the deceased. The Grant of Probate will allow for the personal representative (known as the executor) to divide the deceased’s estate in accordance to the Will.
  • If the deceased did not leave behind a valid Will, then a Grant of Letters of Administration needs to be extracted instead. The Grant of Letters of Administration will allow the personal representative (known as the administrator) to divide the deceased’s estate according to the Intestate Succession Act (Cap. 146).
  • If the deceased left behind a valid Will but failed to appoint an executor/executors, or the executor(s) appointed are unable or unwilling to administer the estate, the court will then consider the fittest person(s) to administer the estate and allow for a Grant of Letters of Administration with the Will Annexed to be extracted.
  • In the table below, some of the key differences between a Grant of Probate and Grant of Letters of Administration are listed.
  Grant of Probate Grant of Letters of Administration
The personal representative is known as An Executor An Administrator
How the estate is divided A person who has a valid Will would have a free hand in determining how to divide his/her estate. A person’s estate would be divided according to the rules of the Intestate Succession Act[1].
The ability to choose who would manage the estate A person who has a valid Will can choose his/her executor(s) and trustee(s) and define the scope of their powers in the Will.

While most people choose family members to be their executors, some people choose a close friend whom they trust to administer the estate in order to give their families time to mourn in peace. Others choose to hire the services of a professional or a trust company.
Only the next-of-kind , who qualify under the Probate and Administration Act[2] can be appointed administrators of a person’s estate.

The appropriate person will be chosen based on the order of priority within the rules of the Intestate Succession Act [3].

There is thus a possibility that no next-of-kind exist, or each person who qualifies chooses to renounce (give up) their right to take up the Grant of Letters of Administration, leaving the estate in neglect.
The minimum number of persons who must be appointed when there is a minor (below the age of 21) beneficiary Only 1 executor is needed. At least 2 administrators must be appointed.
Cost Generally, the cost is lower for the Grant of Probate as it requires less documents to be filed and can be obtained more quickly. Generally, more paperwork is required for a Grant of Letters of Administration. The cost of preparing these documents and filing them would thus be higher.

[1] Section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act
[2] Section 18(3) of the Intestate Succession Act
[3] Section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act

The article was originally posted at fortislaw.com.sg