WHAT COMES AFTER
What happens to the HDB flat after its owner passes on? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions to address the confusion over this topic.
Find out what happens to an HDB flat after its owner passes on.
A s we have seen too often, descendants sometimes get into ugly fights over inherited property, end up in court or get their squabbles splashed all over the media (a certain 38 Oxley Road comes to mind, but let’s not go there). After all, in Singapore, property investment is a national obsession. Even our “humble” HDB flats are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each, and, in many cases, over $1 million.
Whether you are a flat owner or will inherit a flat someday, here’re some answers to FAQs to keep yourself educated.
WHAT HAPPENS TO A HDB FLAT IF ONE CO- OWNER PASSES AWAY?
In Singapore, couples commonly buy their flats under the joint-ownership scheme where both hold an equal share. When one of them passes away, the right of survivorship
applies and the other owner will take sole ownership of the flat, as long as he/she fulfils all the eligibility conditions.
In some cases, parents may buy a HDB flat together with a child, as joint owners. When one owner passes on (be it a parent or the child), the remaining two will take over the flat. He/ she/they must be a Singapore Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR), be at least 21 years old, and satisfy all of HDB’s current eligibility rules and conditions to own a flat (see www.hdb.gov.sg for full details).
If the HDB flat is bought under a tenancy-in-common scheme (e.g. two singles buying a flat together, or a couple buying the flat under unequal shares such as 70 per cent vs 30 per cent), the deceased person’s share will be split according to whether he/she left a will, or by the Intestate Succession Act (see box story).
HOW DOES ONE INHERIT AND TRANSFER OWNERSHIP OF A HDB FLAT?
If you are the deceased’s remaining family, you can retain the flat and take over its ownership, as long as you fulfil HDB’s criteria stated above. If the deceased left behind a will, the bereaved family should hire a lawyer to apply for the Grant of Probate. This gives the Executor the legal authority to manage the estate according to the deceased’s wishes.
Low Po-Yu, a senior marketing director with ERA, bought her HDB flat in 2016 from a family who inherited it from their late mother. “The mother had already written a will with a Grant of Probate. She named her daughter as the Executor of her will, and the daughter acted accordingly. The proceeds from the sale of the flat were then split among the children equally,” said Po-Yu.
In the event that the deceased did not leave behind a will, the Intestate Succession Act will apply. You will need to get a lawyer to apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration.
WHO MUST THE NEXT- OF- KIN INFORM IF THE FLAT OWNER PASSES AWAY, IN ORDER TO INHERIT IT?
A Notice of Death must be submitted to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) so that it can update the records. The easy way is to engage HDB’s legal services at the managing HDB branch office nearest to the flat, which will do it for a fee, says Po-Yu.
However, there is a moneysaving tip. “Many people think they have to go via HDB but you can do it yourself, via SLA’s website (www.sla.gov.sg) and fill in the form required to register a Notice of Death,” she says. Bring the printed copy with the authorisation from the surviving spouse ( if he/she is unable to do it personally), the identity cards of remaining joint-owners, the original death certificate, evidence of estate duty clearance for the deceased owner’s estate (only applicable for death occurring before Feb 15, 2008) and duplicate lease ( if any).
When the Grant of Letters of Administration or the Grant of Probate has been obtained, either engage your own lawyer or appoint HDB’s to act for you to register your legal right as the Administrator or Executor. (Check with the relevant HDB branch handling the deceased’s flat to make the application). You’ll need:
Original copy of the Grant of Letters of Administration and Statement for Grant of Letters of Administration, or Grant of Probate and will
Original copy of the Syariah Court Inheritance Certificate (for Muslim estates only)
A copy of the deceased owner’s death certificate
Duplicate lease of the deceased’s flat
Identity card(s) of all flat owner(s) and Administrator(s) or Executor(s)
If the deceased left behind a will, the bereaved family should hire a lawyer to apply for the Grant of Probate.