What is an executor and what does it mean to be an executor of a will?
It is an honour to be chosen as an executor of someone’s will. It is also a ‘heavy duty’ role that requires patience and diligence in carrying out the responsibilities.
Anyone can be appointed as an executor, as long as he or she is above 21 years old, not a bankrupt and is of sound mind. The deceased may pick an executor whom he/she knows personally, or a professional executor like a lawyer or a trust company licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
As an executor in Singapore, you play a crucial role in administering the estate of a deceased person and ensuring that his/her assets are distributed according to his/her wishes stated in the will. The duties of an executor can be complex.
Below is a checklist to guide you through the process of executing a will in Singapore. Keep in mind that this is a general guide, and it is recommended that you seek legal advice or consult with a qualified professional to ensure compliance with the most current laws and regulations.
Checklist of the key duties of an executor in Singapore:
- Locate the will
Find the original will and ensure it is valid and legally recognized. If the deceased person did not have a will, the estate will be distributed according to intestacy laws.
- Read the will and understand the deceased’s instructions
To identify your responsibilities as an executor, you have to read the will and understand the instructions given to you by the deceased.
- Make funeral arrangements
Next, you have to make funeral arrangements for the deceased as instructed in the will. If the will does not specify funeral arrangements, you will need to do what is fitting. You may claim the costs of the funeral arrangements from the deceased’s estate.
- Obtain all relevant documents
Subsequently, you have to obtain all relevant documents that are needed for the application of the Grant of Probate in the next stage. Some documents include, but are not limited to:
– Originating summons, statement, supporting affidavit – these are court documents to be filed when applying for a Grant of Probate
– Results of any probate caveat and applications searches
– Schedule of Assets
– Administration oaths, affidavits and consents of co-administrators or renunciations filed (if any)
– Certified true copy of the Death Certificate or Order of Court for presumption of death of the deceased
– Certified true copy of the last will and codicil (amendments to last will, if any), including any translation (if any) certified by a lawyer
– Foreign grant for resealing a Foreign Grant of Probate (if any)
– Inheritance Certificate (for Muslims)
– Any other supporting documentation
- Apply for a Grant of Probate
The Grant of Probate is an important court order to obtain, as it legally recognises you and therefore, empowers you as an executor to carry out the instructions in the will.
- Identify and secure assets
Create an inventory of all the assets owned by the deceased, such as properties, bank accounts, investments, insurance policies, and personal belongings. Safeguard and maintain these assets throughout the administration process.
- Notify relevant parties
Inform banks, government agencies, financial institutions, and relevant parties about the death of the individual and your role as the executor.
- Settle debts and taxes
Identify and pay off any outstanding debts, taxes, and liabilities of the deceased from the estate. This is a priority, as you cannot distribute any assets to the beneficiaries until all debts have been paid.
- Give notice of intention to distribute the deceased’s assets
This is a legal requirement, and it gives the beneficiaries an opportunity to object to the distribution.
- Manage and distribute assets
Ensure that the assets are managed prudently during the administration process. Once debts and taxes are settled, distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will.
- Keep accurate records
Maintain detailed records of all financial transactions, distributions, and communications related to the estate. These records will be necessary when it comes to accounting for the estate to the beneficiaries and the court. By doing so, you safeguard yourself from any potential legal challenges.
- Handle legal matters
Address any legal issues that may arise during the administration process, including potential disputes among beneficiaries.
- Communicate with beneficiaries
Keep beneficiaries informed about the progress of the estate administration and address their concerns and queries.
- File necessary documents
Lodge required documents with the relevant government authorities, such as tax filings and finalising the administration with the court.
- Final accounting and distribution
Prepare a final account of the estate’s assets, income, expenses, and distributions and provide this to the beneficiaries for approval. Once approved, distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries accordingly.
- Closing the estate
Once all the tasks are completed, seek court approval for the final distribution and formally close the estate.
Remember that the responsibilities of an executor can be legally binding, and it is essential to carry them out with diligence and integrity.
Here are some additional tips for executors in Singapore:
- Seek professional legal advice if you need it
The execution of a will can be a complex and time-consuming process, depending on the estate’s size and complexity. Engaging a lawyer experienced in probate matters will be immensely beneficial and help ensure that the process is carried out smoothly and in compliance with the law.
- Be organised and efficient
The administration of an estate can be a complex and time-consuming process, so it is important to be organised and efficient.
- Be patient
The administration of an estate can take some time, so be patient and do not rush things.
A note to the testator – If the size of your estate is large and/or there are complex issues, you should consider hiring professional executors and trustees instead.
Will you be compensated for performing the duties of an executor?
It is not a requirement of Singapore law to have to pay the executor. However, in many cases, the testator (creator of the will) will leave his/her executor a small sum of money as a token of appreciation for taking the trouble to administer the estate.
If this is not stated in the will, according to section 66 of the Probate and Administration Act, the court may at its discretion pay the executor a commission of up to 5% on the value of the assets collected.
I hope this article has given you a better idea of what is involved when you are an executor of a will. If you are keen to learn more about how to protect and distribute your wealth smoothly, efficiently and cost-effectively, come and have a chat with me today.