Intestate Succession Act

Intestate Succession Act

This is the mother of all estate planning laws. As most people do not write a will, majority of the net-estates in Singapore will be settled through Intestate Succession Act. There are 10 sections in this statute, and the most important of all is Section 7 of the Act which spells the statutory entitlement of various classes of beneficiary if one dies without a will in Singapore.

Meaning of “net-estate”

It is important to understand the meaning of net-estate (or net assets) because there are assets (of the deceased) which are not distributable under section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act. These assets are:

  1. Joint tenancy properties;
  2. Financial assets (e.g. bank deposits) held in joint-ownership;
  3. Life insurance policies nominated under Section 73 (Trust Nomination) of Conveyancing & Law of Property Act;
  4. Life insurance policies nominated under Section 49L (Irrevocable & Trust Nomination) or Section 49M (Revocable Nomination) of Insurance Act;
  5. Life insurance policies which have been absolutely assigned to a 3rd party;
  6. CPF funds which have been nominated under Section 25 of CPF Act;
  7. Business interests which have been contractually set up under a buy-sell agreement;
  8. Current and contingent debts incurred by the deceased must also be settled before the estate can be distributed.


Section 7: Rules for distribution

Assuming a non-Muslim person dies without a will, his net-estate will be distributed according to:

RuleWho survives the deceased (i.e. who is alive at the time the deceased passed away)Who are the beneficiaries & what their shares of the estate?
1 Spouse (No issue or parents) Spouse – 100%
Spouse & issue Spouse – 50%
Issue – 50% in equal portions
(The descendants of any deceased child will only inherit their deceased parent’s share.)
Issue (No spouse) Issue – 100% in equal portions.
(The descendants of any deceased child will only inherit their deceased parent’s share.)
Spouse & parents (No issue)  Spouse – 50%
Parents – 50% in equal portions 
Parents (No spouse or issue) Parents – 100% in equal portions.  
Siblings & children of deceased siblings (No spouse, issue or parents) Siblings – 100% in equal portions.
(The children of any deceased sibling will only inherit their parent’s share)
Grandparents (No spouse, issue, parents, siblings or children of siblings) Grandparents – 100% in equal portions. 
Uncles & aunts (No spouse, issue, parents, siblings, children of siblings or grandparents) Uncles & aunts – 100% in equal portions.
None of the above Government – 100%.


Meaning of “Issue”

Issue means children and the descendants of deceased children.


Meaning of “Children”

Children mean legitimate children and children adopted by virtue of orders of court in Singapore, Malaysia or Brunei Darussalam.

Equal legal standing is also extended to a child who was conceived in the mother’s womb at the time of the deceased’s death, and was subsequently been born alive [Section 6(a) of Intestate Succession Act].

Illegitimate children have no legal standing under this Act.

Step children also have no legal standing under this Act (Low Guang Hong David & others v Suryono Wino Goei) [2012] SGHC 93.

Grandchildren have no direct entitlement of the deceased’s estate.


Meaning of “Spouse”

Spouse means a lawful wedded wife or husband as sets out under the laws in Women’s Charter (Chapter 353).

If a man dies leaving more than one wife, each wife shall share among them equally the share which is entitled to one wife [Section 8 of Intestate Succession Act].

Former spouse (i.e. divorce or null marriage) has no legal standing under this act.

De facto spouse (or partner) has no legal standing under this act.


Beneficiary’s standing to be administrator of deceased’s estate

A beneficiary who is entitled to a share of the estate will be given priority by the court to be administrator of the deceased’s estate [Section 18 of Probate & Administration Act].


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