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Estate Case Sample: Estate of MMK

The Beginning of a 4-Year Long Legal Case

In one of the more prominent cases we’ve had in recent years, the Estate of MMK case ended after a long-drawn-out 4 years of legal proceedings. It began in January 2015, when the Deceased passed away after a 2-year battle with cancer. She named her best friend as her sole executrix in her last Will, signed in 2013. After her passing, her best friend, who did not reside in Singapore and without experience in administering estates, appointed PreceptsGroup to take over her role.

How The Will Dispute Started

Before filing for the Grant of Probate, PreceptsGroup made a surprising discovery – a “Mr. K” claiming to be the next of kin of the Deceased (he was not named as a beneficiary in the last Will of the Deceased), had applied for the Grant of Letters of Administration. This was done on the basis that the deceased had died intestate and that he was the sole beneficiary under Singapore’s Intestate Succession Act.

The Immediate Action Taken by PreceptsGroup

With the original last Will in hand, PreceptsGroup immediately filed for a Probate Caveat* to arrest the situation, preventing Mr. K from proceeding. If this had been delayed, Mr. K would have ended up taking over the entire estate.

A Questionable Revocation Document Was Produced

PreceptsGroup requested for Mr. K to withdraw his application. However, after 6 months of communication between solicitors from both sides, Mr. K sprang a surprise. In an unexpected turn of events, Mr. K produced a document, claiming that the Deceased had signed it 6 days before her demise, to revoke all her earlier Wills.

This newly produced revocation document was not an updated Will by the Deceased, but a one-liner to revoke all her earlier Wills. If it was valid, her last Will signed in 2013 would have been revoked and her entire estate transferred to Mr. K.

It was highly suspicious that the revocation document was produced only after 6 months. There was no logical reason as to why the Deceased would have signed it before her demise. She had lived through a continuously acrimonious relationship with Mr. K. To add to our doubt, the only witnesses present during the signing of the document were those related to Mr. K.

Handwriting Experts Were Brought In

With a genuine desire to protect and preserve the interests of beneficiaries named in the Last Will of the Deceased, PreceptsGroup commenced a legal proceeding against Mr. K for all the relevant issues to be tried in court. The revocation document was sent to a handwriting expert for examination, together with specimen signatures of the Deceased, which took 2 years to gather from her ex-employer, insurance companies, banks, court, and other authorities.

A Long-Awaited Victory for PreceptsGroup

The legal proceedings went on for another 2 years and in 2019, everything was eventually settled. After receiving favorable results from the handwriting expert, the other party agreed for PreceptsGroup to carry out the wishes of the Deceased stated in the Will.

The Key Takeaway

What could have been a simple estate matter turned into a complicated one. Many do not expect to face onerous responsibilities when taking on an executor’s role. In reality, the challenges can be massive in some cases. If the best friend of the Deceased handled this case without passing it on to PreceptsGroup, abandonment of the case is almost guaranteed when stress levels and legal fees surge. This would have resulted in all the beneficiaries named in the Will being disinherited by the revocation document produced by Mr. K. It is, therefore, advisable to appoint a suitable person to be the executor of your Will

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The Role of Executors and Trustee (Part Two)

Segregation of Personal Monies with Estate/Trust

One of the most common issues for the individual executor or trustee is the failure to identify, divide and segregate the assets accordingly from the deceased’s estate account and their personal account.

This is especially so if the individual trustee needs to manage the estate monies and properties for young children & vulnerable elderly beneficiaries for many years, even up to decades. If the individual executor or trustee passes away before completing the estate administration process , the estate of the deceased may be mixed with the individual executor’s estate.

Keeping Record of Estate Account

Another problem is the failure in keeping proper accounts and records of the deceased’s estate. The executor or trustee is required to keep records of the estate account to show the in-flow and out-flow of monies and assets received under the deceased’s estate. Failure in rendering a proper estate account could lead to legal action and the estate monies could also be depleted due to unnecessary administration expenses and legal fees.

Conclusion

Appointing a trustworthy, accountable and unbiased party to act professionally as the executor or trustee has become a serious concern for most people. When a person writes their Will, they should consider appointing a professional trust company as the main Executor or the substitute Executor in cases where the main Executor is unable or incompetent to act.

Recent Estate Administration cases by Precepts

  • Challenging the validity of a forged deed of revocation and obtaining forensic reports relating to authenticity of signatures on documents.
  • Successful claim for damages in reported decision in medical negligence in high profile case.
  • Estate administration involving mediation convened at the Singapore Mediation Centre with a view to settlement.
  • Settlement of estate duties with the IRAS for deceased person dying intestate prior to 2008.
  • Dealing with and payment of estate and trust income taxes to the IRAS.
  • Application for Beddoe orders prior to litigation.
  • Application of Benjamin orders where beneficiaries are presumed to be missing or deceased.
  • Appointment as administrators to sell real estate assets and distribution of joint property owned by deceased and a mentally incapacitated co-tenant.
  • Administration of insolvent estates and distribution according to the First Schedule of the Rules as to Payment of Debts Where Estate Is Insolvent under the Probate and Administration Act.
  • Administering estate with family disputes involving an Eviction Order and Write of Possession.
  • Distribution of estate property to the deputy/administrators of beneficiaries who are mentally incapacitated or deceased.
  • Sale of private residential properties as part of trust administration in Singapore and Malaysia.
  • Transmission of title of assets of deceased’s estates relating to real estate and company shares to beneficiaries.
  • Administration of estate with overseas properties in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Thailand and etc.
  • Appointment as administrator through Letter of Administration De bonis Non.
  • Estate administration relating to deceased persons dying domiciled in Singapore and resealing of Probate in Malaysia.
  • Estate administration relating to deceased persons dying domiciled in Malaysia and taking up probate in Hong Kong.
  • Estate administration of deceased dying due to unnatural cause with difficulties claiming from relevant insurer.
  • Handling estate with tax disputes and management of the tax liabilities.
  • Involvement in citation proceedings relating to upholding validity of a Will.
  • Purchase of Residential Property as trustee for occupation by estate beneficiary in exercise of powers under S12(3) Trustees Act and setting up of property trusts.
  • Provision of loan upon security of charge over property to estate beneficiary in exercise of powers under S9 Trustees Act.

 

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The Role of Executors and Trustee (Part One)

When a family member passes away leaving a Will, the appointed Executor will step in to act as the personal representative of the deceased to carry out the wishes under the Will.

“…the executor has the duties to “call in” the estate, i.e. collect and converts the assets into cash and thereafter, to settle all the funeral and testamentary expenses, estate duty, and debts. When the executor completed these duties, he/she has discharged the duties as an executor and steps into the shoes of a trustee. In short, both the executor and the trustee owe a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries and also to creditors of the deceased’s estate.”

– Lee Yoke San & Another v Tsong Sai Cecilia & Another
[1992] Singapore High Court

https://www.preceptsgroup.com/will-writing-services/

Appointing an executor or trustee can be a cumbersome process. One may have to look into the aspects of credibility, accountability and availability of an individual in carrying out the duties of an executor or trustee to gather, transfer and distribute the assets of the deceased. Even after much thought by the Testator (the person who made the Will), the appointed executors may renounce their appointments if they were too busy, unfamiliar with the process or emotionally unable to carry out their duties upon the demise of the testator. The following are some illustrations where appointing a professional trust company is a better proposition than appointing family members as executors and trustees.

Licensed trust company | PreceptsGroup

Precepts Trustee as a pioneer in estate planning business with its expertise in estate and trust administration will continue to grow and be a leader in this industry in the region. We have regularly received enquiries on the appointment of executorship and trusteeship for the estate of the deceased or living trusts.

Checks and Balance

As a licensed trust company, Precepts Trustee is regulated by Monetary Authority of Singapore. There are multiple layers of checks and balances in the management of the Estate and Trust monies. There are controls exercised at many levels and all personnel, namely the Estate Officer in Charge, Resident Manager, Accounts Department, Senior Management and Trustee Board. Multiple signatories are required for any pay out from the trust. In contrast, if an individual is the trustee, the risks of misappropriation, mismanagement and fraud is significantly higher. This is especially critical when there are young children, vulnerable or elderly beneficiaries.

Effective Estate Administration Process

Delays in administering the deceased’s estate will attract higher legal fees. A professional trust company has the expertise and responsibility to administer the estate expeditiously. Individual executors may not have the technical knowledge to manage and administer certain estates. For instance, in a recent case Precepts Trustee was appointed as administor for a deceased’s estate, which involved initiating a legal action against third parties.

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Estate Administration for Insolvent Estates

How The Case Unfolded

This case unfolded with Robert’s call to Precepts looking for help. In the call, Robert* informed us that he had been appointed as the sole executor and trustee of his late mother’s Will. According to Robert, his mother did not appoint any other executor, since Robert was the sole beneficiary. However, he wanted to renounce his right to apply for the Grant of Probate. He wanted Precepts to take over his role in administering his late mother’s estate as he was facing a lot of stress and anxiety in the estate administration.

As the Will was not drafted by Precepts, we held a meeting with Robert to better understand the situation. He disclosed that his businesswoman mother had encountered some financial difficulties just before her passing. As a result, his mother had left huge liabilities behind. After studying the case, Precepts tabulated that her estate’s liabilities were projected to be greater than the remaining assets of the estate.

The Beginning of Robert’s Nightmares

Ever since the creditors discovered he was the named Executor of the Estate, they started going after Robert to demand for re-payment of his mother’s debts. He received numerous calls from various banks’ collection departments almost every single day. He was also informed by the banks that late payment for his mother’s credit card debts and the legal fees would continue to accrue until full settlement!

He also realized that he would unlikely benefit from the Will as his mother’s estate was insolvent. He had no peace of mind. He was very concerned that the property which was owned in his name (he purchased with his own money together with his wife), could be taken away by the creditors. He was so pressured that he started to believe he had to sell his own house to settle the debts.

The Appropriate Actions Taken By PreceptsGroup

After Precepts was appointed to act as the administrator, the creditors started to deal with Precepts, and not Robert. The phone calls to Robert ended over time. It had been a long process for Precepts to deal with the banks and to meticulously verify each of the creditors’ claims. It was something Robert had not been able to do so. The estate also received claims from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). After Robert’s mother’s house was sold, the net sale proceeds were used to first settle the IRAS claim before the balance debts and liabilities were paid proportionally to the respective claims admitted by Precepts.

Robert was also relieved to find out that he could claim the money which he had advanced for his mother’s funeral expenses (with supporting documents), as this claim had priority before the rest of the creditors.

After Robert relinquished his right and appointed Precepts as the administrator of his mother’s estate, he and his wife were able to resume their lives normally again.

*Name and facts have been modified for privacy purposes.

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5 Issues to Take Note When Addressing Overseas Assets in Your Singapore Will

Have you considered engaging will writing services in Singapore? Over the course of your life, you may have acquired overseas assets for investment purposes, as a family holiday home, etc. You may wonder what happens to your overseas assets when you pass on? Can you include them into your assets to pass on to your loved ones? And how do we go about doing it? If you have assets, such as bank accounts, properties, or jewelry located overseas, writing a Will on your own can be hard.

In this article, we will touch on the issues you have to take note of when dealing with your overseas assets in your Estate Planning. This will come in handy to those who are looking at how to manage their overseas assets when planning out their Wills and Trust for their family.

You can include overseas assets to your Singapore Will. In fact, testators (people who create Wills) often do this as it may be more convenient as compared to drafting two separate Wills for your assets in two different countries. However, there are 5 issues you have to take note before you decide to include your overseas assets in your Singapore Will.

Making a will in Singapore | PreceptsGroup

  1. Your overseas immovable property is subject to the laws of the jurisdiction it is located in

This means that all immovable properties, such as houses, land, condominiums will be subject to the laws of the jurisdiction that the immovable property is located in. For example, if you create a Will in Singapore, the house you own in America that was listed in the Singapore Will would still be subject to and dealt with according to the American law. Your beneficiary, the person who inherits your property, will thus have to pay relevant taxs for the property, as specified by the American inheritance tax rules.

Writing a will in Singapore | PreceptsGroup

    2. Your overseas moveable assets are subject to the laws of the jurisdiction where you are domiciled in

This means that all moveable properties such as money in bank, accounts, cars, and jewelry will be subject to the laws of the jurisdiction of the country that you are domiciled in.

What is a domicile? The domicile is the country which a person officially has as their permanent home, or has a substantial connection with.

Hence, if you write a Will in Singapore, any overseas movable property mentioned in the Will would also be subject to Singapore law. If you create a Will in Malaysia, overseas movable property mentioned in the Malaysia Will would be subject to the Malaysian Law.

If you die domiciled in Singapore and you create a Will in Singapore, any overseas movable property mentioned in the Will would also be subject to Singapore law. Even if you created a Will outside of Singapore, such as with the creation of a Malaysian Will to cover your movable assets in Malaysia, such property is subject to the law of your domicile i.e. Singapore law and not Malaysian law.

Will writing services in Singapore | PreceptsGroup

Will Writing Singapore | PreceptsGroup

  1. The “resealing of probate” in other jurisdictions

When you write a Will in Singapore, the executors of the Will whom you have appointed must apply to the Singapore court for a “Grand of Probate (GP)”, which will give them the power to carry out the instructions in the instructions in your Will.

However, when your Will includes assets (whether movable, immovable or both) located in another country’s jurisdiction, that jurisdiction must “reseal”, or give legal recognition to, the probate that your executors were granted in Singapore. Only then will your executors have the same power to carry out your instructions in relation to your overseas assets.

Note that Commonwealth jurisdictions, such as Australia and Malaysia, can typically reseal probate granted by a Singapore court. If a jurisdiction rejects your application for the resealing of probate, you will likely be treated as having died intestate (i.e. having died without making a Will), and your overseas property will be subject to the inheritance laws of whichever jurisdiction your property is located in.

Note that the resealing of probate involves its own separate court application, and thus involves more costs. The extra costs involved is one of the reasons why testators sometimes choose to create separate Wills for the assets that they hold in different jurisdictions instead of having just one Singapore Will which includes their overseas assets. A much easier process is to engage in a professional Estate Planning company that will have the expertise and experience to help you in managing the Will writing and distribution of assets both in Singapore and overseas to benefit you and your loved ones efficiently.

Another point to note on dealing with foreign investments is that the Will may need to be translated into the language of the jurisdiction, which can be quite costly. Hence it will be better to create separate Wills for the different jurisdictions and appoint a corporate executor and trustee to manage the overseas legal process.

Will writing services in Singapore | PreceptsGroup

    4. Other jurisdiction may not recognise your Will

Another risk of including your overseas assets in your Singapore Will is that sometimes other jurisdictions may not recognise your Singapore Will. Consequently, you will not be able to have that Will executed in that jurisdiction according to your wishes.

In general, jurisdictions that do not follow Common Law, such as Indonesia and Thailand, might not recognise a Singapore Will.

In contrast, Common Law jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand, will generally recognise a valid Singapore Will. However, this is also dependent on whether the jurisdiction in question:

  • Accepts the formal validity of the Will; and
  • Accepts the terms of the Will.

In relation to these two factors, a common law jurisdiction may sometimes accept that a Will is formally valid (i.e. it complies with the jurisdiction’s legal requirements for making a Will), but also refuse to accept the terms of the Will because they conflict with other national laws or regulations. This results in the Will not being recognised by the jurisdiction.

For example, if you were to leave all your United Kingdom assets to charity, a person who can show that they were financially dependent on you can apply to the United Kingdom court under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975 to challenge the terms of your Will.

If they are successful in their application, the term in your Will stating that all your United Kingdom assets should be donated to charity would not be accepted, and a portion of such assets could be allocated to the applicant instead.

Will writing services in Singapore | PreceptsGroup

    5. You can have multiple Wills in different jurisdictions

It is possible to have multiple Wills in different jurisdictions. However, this must be managed carefully so that the Wills do not supersede each other. The different Wills must be drafted

carefully, and it will be a complicated process.

For example, there could be an instance where your beneficiaries may not want to manage your overseas assets. You may have properties in Malaysia, but your children may have no interest in living in Malaysia at all. In this case, you may do the following to manage your assets in Malaysia:

  1. A) appoint a professional trustee to manage the asset
  2. B) appoint one or two beneficiaries as the Trustee for that asset

Advantages of having separate Wills in different jurisdiction includes:

  • Both Wills can be probated at the same time
  • Overseas Will is already written in the language of the country, which can save cost on translation
  • The Will drafted will be recognised in their own respective countries
  • Different states, different province may have a different legal process and interpretation of the Will (as pointed out in point 5)

For professional Trustee and Wills Writing services, you can engage PreceptsGroup to help with your Estate Planning and Business Succession needs. We have expertise built on more than 20 years of experience and we are dedicated to providing comprehensive planning and solutions for wealth distribution, wealth succession, estate administration for individuals and families.

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Covid-19

NOTICE TO PRECEPTSGROUP CLIENTS AND FRIENDS

COVID-19 UPDATES FOR POST CIRCUIT BREAKER MEASURES FROM 2ND JUNE 2020 ONWARDS

WE CONTINUE TO SERVE YOU

All our services shall continue to be available.

Our Estate and Succession Practitioners will be able to provide one-to-one Estate Planning Consultation via phone/video call on the following matters:

  • Will Writing & Attestation
  • Trust Set Up
  • Execution of Lasting Power of Attorney

We welcome any enquiries. Hence, for clients who need Estate Planning Services, please contact us at:

Main Line: 62218633

Email: contactus@preceptsgroup.com

 

Do take note the measures we have put in place:

All meetings conducted at our office are strictly by appointments only. PreceptsGroup reserve the right to accept, postpone, cancel, or deny any visits to our office.

All visitors are required to wear a face mask, as well as log into SafeEntry and TraceTogether mobile application while within the premises.

Any visitors who are unwell in any way will not be allowed into our premises.

All representatives will be required to wear both a face mask AND face shield for all face to face appointments with clients.

 

We look forward to providing estate planning solutions to you while we continue to serve the community at large.

Most of all, take care, stay safe and connected.

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Thoughts from Lee Chiwi, CEO of PreceptsGroup International

As I reflected upon the article, it connected with what we at PreceptsGroup do for our clients.

At the National level, the government unveiled the unprecedented $60.1 billion COVID-related measures ($55 billion under Unity and Resilience Budges and additional $5.1 billion Solidarity Budget) to help everyone here in Singapore, practically anyone who has a stake here. The ability of the Singapore government to do this and probably reasonably unique compared to other counties had to do with the building and setting aside of past reserves over the years through prudent spending. The tapping on the reserves was in anticipation that someday, Singapore might need it in a crisis such as the present pandemic. This unlocking of the reserves requires the sanction of the President, so there are checks and controls. In Singapore, we are fortunate to have our reserves held in a “mega trust fund” which operates at the national level when difficulties arise.

What we are experiencing now nationally, has its parallel with the trust structure that we set up for families. This is the part that many clients do to create reserves at the family unit level.

In the Straits Times on 27 Mar2020, one of the articles of a columnist’s headline read “No more denying the importance of having deep reserves”.

Over the life of the trust, the surplus of the family’s wealth is set aside and the initial trust fund is built up. Income of the trust fund is accumulated and this is added to the family fund as a reserve and resources for the rainy day. When the rainy day comes along which impact the lives of the family members, that is the time when the reserves are needed. The unlocking comes with the trustee and the protector giving consent to the draw down of the funds to assist the family member in many scenarios of adversity-loss of job, inability to work, medical illness and emergencies, creditor attack, loss of menta capacity etc.

Today the pandemic is very much on our minds and with government intervention, we are all fortunate and many of us will ride through the crisis. But what future crisis lurks round the corner? How should we brace ourselves and our family members for such future uncertainties? A takeaway for families is that we should all do our part to create that family reserve for the future rainy day. Set up your family trust if you have not done so! At PreceptsGroup, “Leaving precepts for families” is what we do to help clients with their legacy plans.

In the meantime, stay healthy!”

At a time when many people are staying home, many are thinking of their family matters, in particular what happens to their loved ones in unfortunate circumstances. This period is when their estate and succession plans take centre stage.

However, with the advent of technology, people are likely to take the easy route of doing their Wills online, giving them a false sense of security.

What they do not realise is “If you make any mistakes whilst writing your Will and you don’t realise before you’re able to write a new one, there could be questions regarding your intentions or problems executing your Will when you’ve died. This may result in your estate not being distributed how you would have liked which could easily cause unnecessary problems and upset for your loved ones during what will undoubtedly be a difficult time.

Given the complexity of modern families, a simple or DIY Will may not be suitable. We always say there is no one-size fits-all when it comes to Wills so we recommend in all cases to seek the advice and the services of a professional to ensure that your wishes are correctly recorded.”

At the same time, Wills Disputes are on the rise, with many claims that the Will has failed to make reasonable provisions.