What happens to the BTO following a death?

Paying his respects…
Cropped shot of a man placing a white rose on a grave

When a tragic event occurs in a family, the last thing anyone wants to think about is what happens to their property. However, as BTOs are intrinsically tied to the state with specific qualifications the appliers have to fulfil prior to purchasing the flat, there are steps one needs to be privy to should an unfortunate life event happen.

HDB has guidelines to help individuals navigate the process and are on hand to offer additional support should the resident have questions. All one is required to do is email the specific HDB branch managing their flat and the officer will help walk them through the steps.

However, for this article, we will cover what some of those steps and processes are.

Demise of joint-owner

When the joint-owner passes away, their share in the interest of the flat will be transferred to the remaining owners. As the remaining family member or single occupier, you can take sole possession of the flat provided you are a Singaporean Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR), are at least 21-years-old and you fulfil HDB’s other eligibility and conditions to owning a flat.

A Notice of Death must also be lodged to the SLA (Singapore Land Authority). To facilitate this, the sole occupier may appoint their own lawyer or engage one through HDB’s legal department.

When lodging the Notice of Death, the sole occupier must bring along their identity card (or in the situation where there are more than one joint-owners, then all relevant identity cards), the original death certificate of the deceased and a duplicate lease if there is any. All registration and conveyancing fees will be paid during the application by the relevant party.

Demise of sole owner/tenant-in-common

When the sole owner or tenant-in-common passes away, their share in the flat will be distributed per their will. If no will was set before the life event occurred, then the flat custody will be subject to the Intestate Succession Act and a court order will be necessary to acquire legal authority to manage the deceased’s flat.

The eligibility criteria are the same as above with the caveat of an existing will. If there is a will, then the deceased’s family will need to apply for a Grant of Probate through a private lawyer. This court order will grant the Executor who is the person named in the will, the legal authority to manage the deceased’s estate.

If a will is absent, then the interest in the flat will be distributed per the Intestate Success Act. The family will need the Grant of Letters of Administration.

Registering as Executor/Administrator of deceased’s estate.

In all things, a private lawyer is crucial to the process. HDB also has lawyers you can engage, after you’ve obtained the Grant of Letters of Administration. If you choose to utilise HDB’s legal department, then prepare the following documents:

  • Original copy of Grant of Letters of Administration and Statement for Grand of Letters of Administration or Grant of Probate and the will
  • For Muslim estates, the original copy of the Syariah Court Inheritance Certificate is required
  • The deceased owner’s death certificate
  • Duplicate lease of the deceased’s flat
  • Identity cards of all flat owners and Administrators or Executors

As the Executor/Administrator, you must sign all relevant documents, pay fees (stamp fees, conveyancing fees and others) and finally, apply at the managing HDB branch of the deceased’s flat a transference of the flat to the beneficiaries with the understanding that all HDB’s prevailing eligibility criteria under transfer of flat ownership will remain in effect.

The steps can seem complicated which is why employing the services of a lawyer, whether privately or through HDB is critical to ensuring that you do not get anything wrong. HDB too, is likely to assist you as best as it can.

The biggest thing you and the other owners can do, is to prepare a will with specifics toward ownership of the flat. This will clear up a lot of problems that will arise absent a will, especially in the situation where there is a possibility for more than one child to inherit the property.

A will (by the significant occupiers) will clear up all potential issues following their demise and therefore, it should be prepared soon and updated every few years.

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