When people die without a valid will...
IN THE absence of a valid will, Singapore's Intestate Succession Act determines how a deceased person's estate will be distributed to successors. This applies to Central Provident Fund monies as well, unless you make a separate nomination.
We reproduce the rules below, together with a translation into plain English. Disclaimer: Translations are not exact and this is not legal advice.
These rules also do not apply to Muslims, whose estates are governed by Muslim law and the Syariah Court.
One key point to note is that under intestacy law your spouse and children take precedence over your parents. Your children and spouse will split your assets with nothing left for dependent parents, if you do not make a will stating an alternative distribution.
If an intestate dies leaving a surviving spouse, no issue and no parent, the spouse shall be entitled to the whole of the estate.
Translation: If you leave behind a spouse and no parents or children, your spouse gets everything.
If an intestate dies leaving a surviving spouse and issue, the spouse shall be entitled to one-half of the estate.
Translation: If your spouse and children survive, your spouse gets half of your assets. See next rule on children.
Subject to the rights of the surviving spouse, if any, the estate (both as to the undistributed portion and the reversionary interest) of an intestate who leaves issue shall be distributed by equal portions per stirpes to and amongst the children of the person dying intestate and such persons as legally represent those children, in case any of those children be then dead.
Proviso No. (1) - The persons who legally represent the children of an intestate are their descendants and not their next-of-kin.
Proviso No. (2) - Descendants of the intestate to the remotest degree stand in the place of their parent or other ancestor, and take according to their stocks the share which he or she would have taken.
Translation: Your children will get the other half, split equally among them. If a child is dead, his or her children (your grandchildren) can claim their parent's share.
If an intestate dies leaving a surviving spouse and no issue but a parent or parents, the spouse shall be entitled to one-half of the estate and the parent or parents to the other half of the estate.
Translation: If you leave behind your spouse, no children, and parents, your spouse gets half and your parents get the other half.
If there are no descendants, the parent or parents of the intestate shall take the estate, in equal portions if there be two parents, subject to the rights of the surviving spouse (if any) as provided in rule 4.
Translation: If you have no children and no spouse, your parents will get your assets, split equally among them.
If there are no surviving spouse, descendants or parents, the brothers and sisters and children of deceased brothers or sisters of the intestate shall share the estate in equal portions between the brothers and sisters and the children of any deceased brother or sister shall take according to their stocks the share which the deceased brother or sister would have taken.
Translation: If you have no spouse, children or parents left, your brothers and sisters get their respective portions, split equally.
If there is a deceased brother or sister with children, their children will get the share the deceased would have got.
If there are no surviving spouse, descendants, parents, brothers and sisters or children of such brothers and sisters but grandparents of the intestate, the grandparents shall take the whole of the estate in equal portions.
Translation: If you have no spouse, children, parents, brothers or sisters or their children left, but your grandparents are still around, they will split your assets equally.
If there are no surviving spouse, descendants, parents, brothers and sisters or their children or grandparents but uncles and aunts of the intestate, the uncles and aunts shall take the whole of the estate in equal portions.
Translation: If you have no spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters and their children, or grandparents left, but you have uncles and aunts, they will get your assets in equal portions.
In default of distribution under rules 1 to 8, the Government shall be entitled to the whole of the estate.
Translation: If you have nobody left to distribute your money to according to the previous rules, the Government takes everything.
Special provision: If any person so dying intestate leaves surviving him more than one wife, such wives shall share among them equally the share that the wife of the intestate would have been entitled to, had the intestate left only one wife surviving him.
Translation: If you leave more than one wife behind, your wives split your money.
Where a distributive share of the property of a person dying intestate is claimed by a child or any descendant of a child of that person, no money or other property which the intestate may during his life have given, paid or settled to or for the advancement of the child by whom or by whose descendant the claim is made shall be taken into account in estimating such distributive share.
Translation: The expensive overseas education you gave your child, that $200,000 cash gift, or whatever you did to support him or her, will not be counted when calculating his or her fair share.
THE BUSINESS TIMES