The Default Intestacy Law May Have Unintended Consequences

By Mr Lee Chiwi
Excerpt from PreceptsGroup Succession and Trusts in Wealth Management (4th edition) Book

The default mechanism of the intestate distribution gives the estate of the deceased to the persons whom the law deems to be the people closest to the deceased in terms of his blood ties and marriage. However, even persons who are the parents of the deceased and dependent on him for maintenance are excluded from benefitting when there are beneficiaries who rank ahead of the parents.

87 Year-Old Grandma Kicked out of Flat as Son Did Not leave a Will

In 2008, Gary Chee, 25 had successfully taken his paternal grandmother, Madam Foo to court over ownership of a three-room flat in Bedok Reservoir. Gary was the sole heir, and had inherited the home from his late father Chee Han Meng. In 1990, Chee Han Meng was divorced from his wife Alice Lin, when their son Garry was only six. Alice Lin moved out of the flat and brought up her son elsewhere. In the meantime, Chee Han Meng lived in the flat with his mother, Madam Foo. In 2006, the elder Mr Chee died of cancer at the age of 49 without leaving a will and the flat passed to his son as the sole beneficiary under the intestacy law. Madam Foo claimed it was part of the joint matrimonial property in which she had a share, despite her not being named. The court however decided that the ownership of the flat had devolved to her grandson. Gary Chee wanted to sell the flat to realize his dream of studying in Australia and filed the case with great reluctance and sadness. But then he had come to a crossroads in his life and in desperate need of funds (Straits Times, June 2, 2009 Mans goes to court to get grandma out of his flat).

  • Table Illustrating Rules of Distribution in Intestacy

  • Spouse means husband or wife. A spouse who is separated from the deceased while the deceased was alive can claim a share of the estate except when the separation was by an Order of Court.
  • Issue means a child (legitimate or legally adopted) and the descendants of a deceased’s child. Therefore, illegitimate children are NOT entitled under the Intestacy Rules.


  • Legally adopted children but not illegitimate children have succession rights on the death of an intestate under the Intestate Succession Act.
  • The Act does not apply to the estate of any Muslim or shall affect any rules of the Muslim law in respect of the distribution of the estate of any such person.
  • Property that is jointly owned shall not pass under the Intestacy Rules (or even under a will). Upon death, it passes to the surviving joint owner under the principle of survivorship.
  • No distinction is made between relatives of the same class whether of the paternal or maternal side.
  • Full blood relatives take before half blood relatives of the same class.

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The Things to Know About ProviTrust – Series 1

Ooi Sen Tee


Relationship Manager Precepts Trustee Ltd (PTL)/

Estate Planning Practitioners Limited (EPPL)


Since the launch of ProviTrust, we are heartened to receive an influx of queries from practitioners managing customers’ enquiries. We have compiled a list of commonly asked questions in this first series which will help you to understand the ProviTrust process.


Q: Why do I need a trust when I can make a CPF nomination for my CPF savings?

A: The CPF nomination specifies the persons who will receive your CPF savings and how much each nominee would receive upon your demise.


A trust expands the options, to further address other concerns, such as deferring and staggering the pay-outto the nominees should you deem them financially immature or vulnerable because of young or elder age.

Q: Do I still need to make my CPF nomination after I set up ProviTrust?

A: Yes, you will need to make your CPF nomination to your appointed trustee of the ProviTrust. Without making a nomination, the trustee will not be able to receive your CPF savings upon your demise to carry out the duty as trustee according to your instructions in the trust deed.


Q: What is the difference between a nominee and a trustee?

A: A CPF nominee is any person or organization whom you appoint to receive a share of your CPF savings.

A trustee in general acts as the legal owner of the trust assets (the CPF savings) and is responsible for the handling and distribution of the assets in the trust, according to the trust deed, for the named beneficiaries.

Q: Can I transfer other assets into ProviTrust and activate it during my lifetime, since this is a living trust?

A: ProviTrust is designed specifically for your CPF savings. This is a digital trust where the set-up process is via a portal using your SingPass login. The process will be completed after the CPF nomination (through the CPF Board portal) is made by naming the trustee as the nominee.

Q: How do I decide whether I should set up a fixed trust or discretionary trust?

A: A fixed trust is set up with your instructions where your appointed trustee must strictly follow them as stipulated in the trust deed and he has no power to alter them.

You may use the following guide as reference to set up a fixed trust:

  1. When you only have one group of beneficiaries, and you do not anticipate any issues that may arise with them receiving the specified fixed shares.
  2. The tenure of the trust period is relatively short, and you do not foresee any drastic or frequent changes, to your beneficiaries’ circumstances during the trust period.
  3. When you have determined the distribution manner and you do not foresee any need to change the instructions during your lifetime.
  4. When you wish for your trustee to follow strictly on the allocation, and the trustee is not have any power to alter it.

With a discretionary trust, you may name beneficiaries and specify the desired allocation that you wish to give to them. But the trustee can exercise his/ her discretion to alter the wishes, validated with supporting rationale, and exercised in the best interest of the beneficiaries, in situations where their circumstances may have changed.

You may decide to set up discretionary trust using the following guide as reference:

  1. When you like to prioritize your beneficiaries to benefit from your CPF savings. There are two groups of beneficiaries for a discretionary trust. The main group will be prioritized to receive your CPF savings, and a substitute group will be the secondary beneficiaries to receive in the event of the main group’s demise.
  2. You have beneficiaries who may be exposed to risk of bankruptcy or may experience dysfunctional marriages.

3: You would like to give the flexibility to your trustee, to provide for your beneficiaries with your CPF savings, when genuine needs arise.

Q: Will my trustee know how much I have in my CPF account during my lifetime?

A: No, the trustee will not know your CPF account details, during your lifetime. The trustee is only aware of the trust details, such as the beneficiaries and the distribution manner to each beneficiary, that is recorded in the trust deed.

Q: If I nominate a trustee in my CPF nomination without informing him or her, will he or she be notified?

A: No, your trustee will not be notified by CPF board when you have changed or nominated him or her as trustee.

However, since this is a trust arrangement and you are appointing your trustee to act according to your instructions, it is a good gesture to keep your trustee informed and updated of any changes that you have made, on your CPF savings distribution plan.

Q: Can I appoint more than one trustee with ProviTrust?

A: With ProviTrust, only one trustee appointment is allowed, which could be an individual or Precepts Trustee.

This is because ProviTrust is designed to receive CPF savings as trust asset through the CPF nomination. After the trust is set up, you must nominate the appointed trustee in your CPF nomination. CPF nomination doesn’t allow substitute nominee, hence no substitute trustee.

Q: Can I change the trustee after I have set up ProviTrust?

A: Yes. There are two important steps to note when you change your trustee for your ProviTrust. Firstly, it is to send your request via email to or contact your Estate and Succession Practitioner. There will be a supplementary deed issued, to remove the  existing trustee and appoint a new trustee, and a fee will be incurred.

Secondly, you need to change your nomination with CPF Board, by nominating the new trustee. This is to ensure that your CPF savings will be paid to the new trustee upon your demise. CPF Board will transfer your CPF savings according to the latest nomination made. You may want to inform your beneficiaries too.



Estate Planning for Divorcees

Estate Planning for Divorcees (part 2)

Lisa Gay (Business Development Executive, Marketing) caught up with Ms Lim Kim Hong (Advocate & Solicitor, Sole Proprietor, Kim & Co.) and Tan Hwee Heng (Head of Marketing Department, Precepts) to understand more about estate planning for divorcees. Ms Kim, fondly known as Kim, has been practising law as an advocate and solicitor since 1988. She has been running her own practice, Kim & Co, for the last 17 years.


Previously in Issue 18, we featured some questions that are commonly asked by many of Precepts clients. Below are further questions addressed during the discussion.


Lim Kim Hong

Advocate & Solicitor Sole Proprietor

Kim and Co.


LG: Can you elaborate more on what are the criteria the testator should consider when appointing a Trustee in the Will to handle the monies meant for the children?


HH: After the divorce, the trust between both parties may have diminished significantly. Hence the testator is usually concerned that if he/ she does not plan properly, monies left for the child or children may not be used for the right cause. They are most concerned that the monies left in the estate, meant for the children will be “hijacked” by the ex- spouse. Hence the trustee should be someone who can deal with the ex-spouse over a long-term basis.


Kim: If the Will provides for minor children as beneficiaries, the Testator will normally provide for the Trustee to hold monies left for the children upon their attaining a certain age. However, there will also be an express clause for the Trustee to apply those monies for the children’s health, welfare and education pending such age.


HH: Indeed, the ex-spouse may still have significant emotional influence on the children while they are of tender age or even beyond. Hence, when these children receive the deceased parent’s monies at age 21, tensions will arise because the surviving spouse may make emotional demands to ask the children to hand over the monies to him/ her. This can create a hostile environment for the children.


We usually recommend clients to state that the remaining monies left after maintenance, education, insurance needs, be distributed to the children upon only reaching a more matured age or upon reaching some milestones. This is crucial. The children should not be faced with the emotional stress by the ex- spouse asking for monies left by the testator at that age when they may be still residing in the same household. So, most of the remaining monies can be inherited by the children when they own their house or the trustee can also use the monies from the estate to help the children pay for expenses directly, without the children receiving the monies in their bank accounts.


LG: How about some clients who have decided that they simply do not wish to leave anything for the children?


Kim: Under the Guardianship of Infants Act, the surviving parent, that is the ex-spouse or legal guardians appointed in the Will are required to maintain the child. Under the Family Maintenance Act, the surviving ex-spouse can still apply to court to request for maintenance from the estate, if there are no provisions made in the Will. For example, the father is required to provide a monthly maintenance under the divorce settlement to the mother. The mother who is the ex-spouse, can apply to court to request the estate of the father to provide for the child.


LG: Does the estate need to provide for ALL the expenses of the children?


HH: It might not be prudent to not leave anything for the children completely. On the other hand, based on our experience in handling such estates, for modern families, if it has always been a shared responsibility, it can be considered fair that one party need not necessarily pay for the full share of the expenses of the children. If the deceased is the mother, the mother’s estate need not pay for all the children’s expenses going forward. An example will be that the Will can state that mother’s estate shall only pay 50% of the enrichment classes and 50% of holiday expenses incurred on a yearly basis. Such instructions can be stated in the Will for the appointed Trustee to act on.


There will be cases where the ex-spouse may demand that the estate pays for the full expenses. Individual trustee may not know how to handle such demands if the Will has been silent on this issue. For example. the ex-spouse may state that $10,000 was spent for family holidays for the children, which actually includes the ex-spouse’s own expenses. If it is an individual trustee who has no experience in handling such demands, it is easy to succumb to such demands because the ex-spouse may potentially influence the children to turn against the trustee. The inexperienced trustee will even have to deal with threats of being sued.


This is where professional trustee companies like Precepts Trustee can be most effective because we can deal with the ex-spouse for the long term without being pressurized by such demands. Such demands might also need to go through the Precepts Board of Trustees to ensure any distribution fulfils the intention of the deceased parent. Hence there is a lot more oversight as well as consistency over decades. The professional trustee will only pay the fair share of expenses for the children.


Useful Guide to Terms & Points to note:

Custody: Part of Divorce settlements. Parent who has custody will be able to make long term decisions for the children.

Guardianship: Appointment through a Will (for estate planning purpose). Surviving parent will be a natural guardian.

Testator: The person who is making the Will.

Trustee: Handles the distribution of the Estate monies. Need not be the same person as the guardian.

Testamentary Trust: A trust set up via a Will, to state how the monies shall be distributed over a period of time.

Age 21: Legal age to inherit remaining monies left by the estate for the minor children if the Will does not state otherwise.



Estate Planning as a Cornerstone of Financial Advisory Services

On 24th August 2021,

PreceptsGroup hosted a panel discussion with their Estate and Succession Practitioners to discuss how estate planning could be a cornerstone in their current financial advisory practice. The presenters were qualifiers for MDRT, COT and TOT in recent years. These qualifications are widely recognized for top financial advisors around the world. The event was conducted over a Zoom Presentation and was attended by more than 200 participants.

The panel discussion was hosted by Tan Hwee Heng, Head of Precepts Marketing Department and included the following presenters:

Ms Jolene Goh,

PreceptsGroup Executive Club Member (Honours, 3 years),

MDRT 2021


Ms Jovin Yeo,

TOT 2021,

MDRT Lifetime and

Honor Roll

Ms Laura Hoi,

COT 2021,

MDRT Lifetime and Honor Roll

Panel Host:

Tan Hwee Heng,

HOD Marketing, PreceptsGroup


HH: What were some challenges that you faced when you first started in estate planning?

Jolene: For the first 6 months after I had completed the Estate Planning training with Precepts in 2017, I didn’t even dare talk about it to clients because it seemed too technical and involved many legal aspects. I had that fear that many advisors face now. The only way to overcome your fear is to do the thing you feel uncomfortable with.

When I first started talking about estate planning to my clients, I had the tendency to discuss the technicalities. It is important to note that clients do not like to be told what to do. My approach was to pitch the ‘pain points’, issues that will make a huge impact to their loved ones when they are no longer around.

HH: Laura, how did you get started?

Laura: This is my 19th year in the financial advisory business. In the first few years of my career, I started to explore estate planning. I probably started the earliest among the three of us. However, I was only doing a handful of Wills when my clients asked for it.

I had some fears, and it was a steep learning curve. It wasn’t until 2018 that I decided to attend more estate planning courses. During one of the courses, a lot of things shared were real life issues that could happen to anyone of us. Ever since that eureka moment, I started to see all the estate planning gaps that my clients had. I felt a renewed sense of excitement when I asked my clients pertinent questions for them to ponder over their needs. I was able to engage in deeper conversations with my high-net-worth clients. That was why and when I decided to use estate planning as a strategy to engage my clients. I was able to meet high net worth clients and assist them to solve pressing problems. It has helped me to become more effective with time management and my clients were confident to refer their affiliates to me.

HH:   Jovin, how does estate planning integrate   with financial planning? How did it lead to you to close more cases?

Jovin: I used to do more insurance planning, less on investments and I didn’t really know how to apply estate planning. I found it very difficult to break into the high-net-worth market. This is because they only saw me as an insurance advisor. However, when you engage your clients using the approach of estate planning, they were more willing to reveal more personal and confidential information.

For example, I was referred to this client who only wanted to write a Will initially. Through a series of questions, I found out that this single lady was planning for retirement as well. But the most alarming discovery was how she has been passing money to a friend to invest for her.

Through our discussion, she realised that passing money to her friend to invest may not be the best solution. Hence, it opened a case for me to plan for investment as part of her retirement.

HH: Jolene, do you regularly face clients who just want a simple Will?

Jolene: Wills are simple, it is the human being who is complex. The situation may look simple at the onset, but you do not know of any underlying complications at that moment. It is not about writing but rather the planning of distribution and that is why we come into the picture.

For simple Will Writing services, they will just write whatever without looking into the blind spots that might have been overlooked. Nothing is more expensive than not knowing your blind spots. You may pay a small price today, but at the end of the day, somebody will pay a huge price for that missed blind spot.

A simple Will can make complex things complicated. A complete plan makes complex things simple for you. Hence, I will ask my client which one would you prefer?

HH: Laura, can you share with us a case you have encountered?

Laura:   Just a few months ago, while talking to a client, I casually asked if she had done her Will. Being single and in her 40s, she started telling me about how her parents were made executors of her aunt’s estate. When her aunt passed away 5-6 years ago, her parents were in their 70s and had to handle the estate of her aunt!

The fact that I could engage in such a conversation was because of my estate planning background and knowledge. It has helped me engage her in a deeper conversation centred around how a poorly thought-out Will had resulted in her parents being sued by her cousins.

It really messed up the whole family dynamics because of that one mistake her aunt made in the Will by appointing her sister and brother-in- law (the client’s parents) as the executors. With the client’s father having passed away, it was now left for her poor 70-year-old mother to go through court proceedings as she was sued by her own family members. All these are so heart breaking and could actually have been easily avoided.

HH:   How else has estate planning helped with   your business?

Jovin: In the past, I was doing an average of between 80 to 150 cases to qualify for MDRT. Last year, I did 85 cases to clear the Top of the Table qualification. This year I have cleared the Court of the Table with just 38 cases. So you can see the potential and opportunities for estate planning is huge when it forms part of your process.

This growth has led to greater satisfaction in my work and eventually more time for my family, which was unlike the past. Nowadays, I hardly go for appointments on weekends.

HH: How do you find Precepts as an estate planning platform?

Laura: I tell my clients that one of the biggest advantages of Precepts is the executorship appointment and because Precepts holds a Trust licence, we are able to perform as Corporate Executor and Trustee for our clients. For most law firms, they typically do not have the ability to be a corporate executor.

Precepts’ founder, Mr Lee Chiwi is very experienced, and I am assured to know that he has legal background and is legally trained. Precepts also has a dedicated team that helps me when I am doing Wills, Trust and Estate Planning with my clients.

There is a committed team of people who can support me and that is one of the biggest strengths of working with Precepts, compared with referring the case to someone else.