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What Happens To Someone’s Assets When The Person Passes on?

Discussion about death is a taboo topic in Asian society and seldom discussed about. Yet this actually causes more trouble when it comes to assets being passed down to the remaining kins. highlights the key areas not to be missed out. 


What do we do, when the reaper comes knocking? Often the pain of losing a loved one will cripple the deceased’s family, and honestly, no one is ever that equipped to handle death in the family. All the more, it is important that we know what are the areas to look into, from a financial standpoint, when a loved one passes on.

You might be helping a friend out with the passing on of someone whom your friend is close to. A helping hand to check on some financial aspects on behalf of the deceased’s family doesn’t hurt.

Here are some things to take note.

1.    Insurance

 Unknown to many Singaporeans, there are a lot of unclaimed monies in insurance companies simply because family members are not aware of the policies that the deceased have bought. Some of these policies could have been bought decades ago, from agents who are no longer plying their trade in the industry.

What you can do is to help furnish a copy of the death certificate with your contact details, and to send it to every insurance company in Singapore. The Insurer will respond to you accordingly, if there is an existing policy that belongs to the deceased.

If the deceased is working, contributes to CPF, and is under the age of 60, he or she is likely to have been covered under the dependents protection scheme (DPS), unless the individiual specifically opts out. As such, do contact the insurers so that the family is able to receive money, which rightfully belongs to them. The sum will not make up for the loss of their loved one, but it will help in covering expenses. Many Singaporeans do not know of such claims and hence never file a claim.

This is also the biggest reason why you should take time to get to know the insurance agent(s) who services your family – you want to contact this person in the event death, permanent disability, critical illness, hospitalization, etc, happens. Keep a close working relationship with your agent so that everyone in the family knows him or her, just in case an emergency or crisis happens.


2.     Banks

Generally, if a person passes away, and if the bank is notified, there will be an immediate “freeze” of all the deceased person’s accounts – be it savings, current, fixed deposits, investments, etc. Operationally, the bank will place a “hold code”, basically “tagging” the accounts with the notification “deceased account” or something of that effect.

If the deceased has left behind a will, and the will named person A & B to be the trustee of the account, then A & B will have to go to the bank to open an “Estate Account.” Depending on how the will is worded, A & B will operate the account jointly, or singly – Jointly can be interpreted as “both A & B must sign for any withdrawals”, singly means “either A or B can withdraw monies from the Estate account.” Do seek your family’s lawyer for more details on will execution as there are many clauses that can be attached to a will – for example to what level of authority the trustees have over the monies, how will the proceeds be paid, etc.

For more information on Probate and Letter of Administration, please refer to the following links:

On a side note, although it is true that if the deceased has a joint account, the joint account holder will still be able to withdraw from the ATM (assuming that the account is signed singly) before the bank places the hold code on all the deceased’s accounts, we would recommend the joint account holder to seek the advice from the bank before doing so.


3.     Businesses

For sole proprietorship, do bring a copy of the death certificate, will, and visit ACRA’s office to file a Notice of Termination or a Notice of Cessation of business on the deceased’s behalf. Talk to a competent insurance agent who is experienced in handling “Keyman” or “Business Insurance” or “Succession Planning” plans. It’s worth discussing the value of the business, and in the case of partnership of two or more owners, the owners might want to discuss how they would want to distribute the shares in the event one of them passes away. Business insurance, keyman, succession planning is a big subject, which we can talk about in our later series.


Royalty-free photo from Getty Images. Used with appreciation.