As specialist probate lawyers, we often act on behalf of foreign firms and executors in cases where the deceased person lived outside of Singapore, but had assets (usually properties and/or bank accounts) in Singapore. In this article we explain how we can re-seal foreign probate in Singapore—i.e. formally recognise it in Singapore. If the foreign country is part of the Commonwealth then the probate is re-sealed, but if the country is outside the Commonwealth then a fresh Grant must be obtained.
Resealing of Probate – When Is It Required?
Ordinarily, when a person living abroad passes away, their next of kin or executor would have probate carried out in the courts of the country where the person was domiciled, to obtain access to their assets there.
But if a person dies while living in one country, but while owning assets located in Singapore, how should their executor and beneficiaries take control of the Singaporean assets, in order to administer the estate and share the assets among the lawful beneficiaries?
Singapore and its courts do not recognise foreign Grants of Probate. Therefore, if the foreign person has assets held in Singapore, and the executor wants to manage the deceased’s estate there, financial institutions in Singapore would require the executor to produce a Singapore court order. The executor must apply to have the original probate in Singapore resealed, so the original Grant is recognised formally (in other words, ‘re-sealed’) by the probate registry in Singapore.
How Should the Executor Obtain This Singapore Court Order?
Option 1: If probate was obtained by the executor in a foreign country belonging to the Commonwealth, or Hong Kong, then the executor can make an application to “reseal the foreign Grant of Probate in Singapore”. This then means the foreign grant of probate is recognised in Singapore. The executor then gains the same powers from the court in the original grant of probate, with no need to alter the terms it contains. It’s just as if the grant of probate had been issued in Singapore.
In our experience, it takes around 2 months in order to get a resealing of a Grant of Probate, and around 3 months to reseal a Letter of Administration. Relatively speaking, resealing is a fast and efficient way to allow executors to get access to assets in Singapore.
Option 2: If probate was obtained by the executor abroad in a country not part of the Commonwealth, or Hong Kong, then the executor must apply in Singapore for a fresh Grant of Probate. It is not possible in this circumstance to reseal it. Situations like this usually require about 4 months to obtain a fresh grant.
Applying for a Resealing of a Foreign Grant of Probate / Letters of Administration in Singapore
The executor of the estate of someone who died while domiciled overseas, can apply for the original Grant to be resealed in Singapore, if:
- The deceased is domiciled in a Commonwealth country or Hong Kong
- The deceased had assets in Singapore
- A Grant of Probate has already been obtained by the executors from the dead person’s home country.
Once the foreign Grant is resealed, the executor can start to manage the deceased’s Singapore assets. The executor can now use the Resealing Court order to compel financial institutions to move money or assets to them for dealing with, and for distribution to the beneficiaries.
To apply to have a foreign Grant of Probate resealed in Singapore, you must apply to the Family Division of the High Court. The court will have to be satisfied that the original Will and Grant of Probate were made under the laws of the original jurisdiction and were valid. If they are satisfied, they’ll then issue a memorandum of resealing. Then the foreign Grant of Probate can be said to be in force in Singapore, and used to administer the deceased’s assets in Singapore.
Likewise, if there was no Will, and the executor had applied for a Grant of Letters of Administration in the home country, a Resealing of the Grant of Letters of Administration can then be applied for in Singapore.
The filings should always be made to the Singapore High Court in cases of resealing foreign Grants of Probate, or Letters of Administration.
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