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Estate Planning: How You Can DIY The Probate Process And Save Yourself Thousands of Dollars

Here’s a step-by-step guide that explains the entire probate process for distribution a loved one’s assets when they have passed on.

This article was contributed to us by Priya Surya from Goodwill, a homegrown digital will-writing service for Singaporeans.

When a parent or relative passes away, the last thing you want to deal with is a complicated and expensive legal and financial process. But often, that’s exactly what happens when families lose a loved one. Understanding the probate process can help keep you from getting caught by surprise.

Who takes charge of a will when someone passes on? What if the person dies without a will? How does one navigate the probate process, and how can you make it easier for your own family should something happen?

We’ll help you address these questions.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of settling a person’s estate after their death. If they left behind assets, a person has to be authorised by the Court either as an executor or administrator to administer the estate (i.e. pay the debts and liabilities of the deceased, as well as funeral and other expenses, before distributing the balance of the estate according to the law).

Did They Have A Will?

Having a clearly written last will and testament is one way to make the probate process easier on your loved ones. It’ll not only specify who gets what, but also who will take care of any children if both parents are to pass away.

If the deceased had aWill, it would also specify an executor to administer the estate according to the wishes of the deceased person. Upon the person’s passing, their individual bank accounts and other assets will be frozen. If you are the named executor, you’ll have to apply for a Grant of Probate with the Court to unfreeze the accounts, and distribute the estate.

Hiring a lawyer may cost thousands of dollars. Instead, you may wish to consider filing for the Grant yourself. This article provides an overview of the steps to DIY the probate process for those with a Will.

If they did not have a Will, and you are a beneficiary of the estate, apply for Grant of Letters of Administration (LA), which is a longer process.

Some Factors To Consider Before Deciding To File

– Create a list of assets and their current market value. Some assets such as CPF monies, flats under joint tenancies, and insurance policies with nominations can be distributed without a grant. In these cases, apply directly with the governing institution.

– If the value of the remaining assets does not exceed $50,000, you may consider applying to the Public Trustee to administer the estate.

– Otherwise, apply for a Grant of Probate. You could consider engaging lawyers, applying for legal aid, and if able to act in person, consider making an application to court yourself.

– If the assets are below $3 Million in total, you may apply to the Family Justice Courts, if higher than $3 Million, you’ll need to apply to the High Courts.

Making An Application

#1 Obtain a death certificate, and create an updated list of assets, and a copy of the original Will

#2 Prepare the following forms:

– Service Bureau Form for Application for Probate
– Schedule of Assets (Supplying the relevant information regarding the assets of the deceased at this stage)
– Renunciation of other executors (If applicable)

#3 Find a solicitor to certify as true: (i) Copy of Will, (ii) copy of Death Certificate, and (iii) copies of Death Certificates of other executors (if you are not the sole primary executor).

#4 Submit the application along with certified true copies of supporting documents, and filing fees at the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau, 133 New Bridge Road, Chinatown Point #19-01/02, Singapore 059413 Tel: (65) 6538 9507. The filing fees are nominal at an average of $15-$30/document. The Service Bureau will then file the documents on your behalf.

#5 Submit the Original Will at the Probate Section for verification that it is an original Will (latest by 4:30 p.m. on the next working day after filing the application for a grant). The Probate Section will return the original Will after verification.

#6 Confirming details of the application – Prepare and file the Supporting Affidavit (Page 38) and Administration Oath (Page 40) within 14 days of filing the application with the Services Bureau. If the Schedule of Assets has been filed, prepare the Supporting Affidavit with a paragraph regarding the schedule of Assets.

#7 Attend before a Commissioner for Oaths to affirm the Supporting Affidavit. A directory is available. Submit the Supporting Affidavit and Oath to the Services Bureau. An SMS will be provided when it has been processed by the Services Bureau and accepted by the court.

#8 The Court will grant the application and inform you if the papers are in order. Otherwise, you are required to attend court on the assigned hearing date.

#9 Extracting the Grant – File request at the Services Bureau. Conduct a search of court records of probate cases and caveats relating to the estate based on the deceased’s ID information, the day of the filing of the Request for Grant. Summary report and any results of the search are to be attached to the Request.

#10 Grants are issued electronically, and can be collected from the Service Bureau when issued. If True Copy of the Grant is required by relevant financial institutions, you may file a request for Certified True Copy of Documents at the Services Bureau.

Finally, with the Grant in hand, the executor will be able to visit the various financial institutions to close the relevant accounts, and open an Estate Account to manage the estate according to the Will.

Create A Will For Yourself And the Elders In Your Family

Having a Will helps save time and money in two specific ways:

– Naming an executor who is capable of distributing your estate reduces the confusion and the permissions a person would have to endure to be named an administrator.

– Having a clear and updated list of complete assets can save months of time, cost, and effort, by enabling your executor to quickly confirm accounts.

If it is onerous for you to gather everything you know about your own assets and liabilities, imagine how difficult it’ll be for your family without your passwords and account access to create a complete list of your assets.

You can create a comprehensive, legally valid Will with Goodwill, a digital will writing platform, which balances efficiency and flexibility at a ridiculously affordable price. For a limited time, you can write your Will for free with Goodwill using the link here.