We have recently obtained a lot of queries in regards of what happens after death of a person. This is the answer from a legal perspective.
Assets of a deceased person are not allowed to be transferred, distributed or dealt with by the next of kin or anyone without Grant of Probate or Letter of Administration.
When a person passed away (we will address this person as a “deceased”), most of the assets of the deceased will be so called “frozen” and the next of kin (either parents, children or spouse) will not be able to receive or deal with the assets unless a Grant of Probate or Letter of Administration is obtained from the High Court.
So, what are the assets? The assets that will be “frozen” are the landed or stratified property, cash in the bank, fixed deposit, shares and vehicles.
As for Insurance, if the deceased has nominated the person to receive the pay out, this insurance pay out will not be affected by being “frozen”.
So what can be done?
If the deceased died leaving a will, then the executor stated in the will shall apply for Grant of Probate from the High Court. If the deceased died without a Will, then the next of kin (administrator) shall apply to the for a Letter of Administration at the High Court. Both processes involve application at the High Court and is normally done with the assistance of a lawyer.
What are the documents required?
You will need to provide:-
- Land Title (for property) or Sale and Purchase Agreement & Deed of Assignment (if the property is without title);
- Car Ownership proof;
- Bank Details such as Name of Bank and Bank Account Numbers; and
- All the proofs of ownership of other properties;
- List of Beneficiaries and their relationship with the deceased together with the NRIC No., Address and Contact numbers; and
- A copy of the Last Will and Testament of the deceased.
What is the difference between Grant of Probate and Letter of Administration?
Grant of Probate is obtained when the deceased died with a Will and this document is normally applied by a lawyer at the High Court and once extracted will be a document that provide the Executor the power to administer the assets of the deceased. The assets in the event of a deceased with a will shall be divided as according to the proportion stated in the Will.
When a deceased died without a will, the next of kin (normally the person who will administer) will appoint a lawyer to apply for a Letter of Administration which gives the power to the administrator to distribute the properties of the Deceased. In such situation, the property will be distributed in the proportion as stipulated in the Distribution Act 1958.
How long is the process?
It will normally take 1 month to 3 months from the filling of the application at the High Court until the extraction of the Grant of Probate or Letter of Administration. There are some saying that Letter of administration will be a longer process which may not be true unless there is complication arising from the discontentment of the beneficiaries. Otherwise, the process at Court will take the similar period of time.
What is the cost?
The cost shall depend on the complexity of the case. One shall take note that there is a substantial amount to be paid for the Court Filling Fees and the other part of the cost shall be professional legal fee.
What happened after obtaining this?
The executor or administrator may then present the Letter of Administration or Grant of Probate to deal with and distribute the monies in the Bank, shares as well as for the distribution of real properties of the deceased.
Also, do take note that there is separate cost incurred for the transfer and distribution of real estate.