Sunday, April 17, 2011

Probate and letter of administration

My friend faced this problem three years ago. His father passed away without a will and left a HDB flat, some money in the bank account and some investments. He was not able to withdraw the money. He approached a few lawyers for advice. They all quoted a fee of more than $5,000 to get a letter of administration. As he had no choice, he paid this fee. Even so, the process took a long time.

Recently, I found that the subordinate court had written clear instructions in their website on how to get a letter of administration (where there is no will) or a probate (where there is a will). The legal fees of $5,000 seemed to be excessive for the paperwork of getting a court order.

I wonder if the lawyer had overcharged my friend? Do you know of other lawyers who are willing to apply for the probate or letter of administration for a more modest fee?

Tan Kin Lian


Spur said...

The process to apply for Grant of Probate or Letters Of Administration is intellectually simple --- an experienced law clerk can do the steps, but is tedious and time consuming. Most lawyers can also submit the initial required documents online from their office PCs and also get his clerk to perform the High Court & Sub Courts caveat searches online, and to do the leg work going to various service counters in the courts and Chinatown Point when necessary.

The overview of the steps can be found here:-

The detailed instructions, forms and formats are found in the Sub-Cts Practice Directions:-

Unfortunately most people won't be able to follow thru on their own as it's very time consuming & tedious. Lawyers know this and charge accordingly --- they also hedge against the case becoming complex e.g. ownership issues of the assets, disputes by family members and beneficiaries etc.

I think most people will need to set aside savings or insurance payout to pay for such expenses, and also not forgetting funeral expenses too.

KT said...

I wish some kind folks will put some Singapore law portal in the internet for people to use.

In today worlds, online portals have removed many jobs such as insurance (insurance direct), property (property guru), trading of stocks and futures, pharmacy etc and etc bypassing middleman and low value add services like lawyer stamps and letters..

Tan Kin Lian said...

Hi Spur,
The tedious work does not need to be done by a lawyer who charge high fees. It can be done by a knowledgeable person, like you, who can charge half of the fee of the lawyer. How about doing this as a business? You can offer it under FISCA. Send an email to, if you are keen to explore this idea.

Vincent Sear said...

There's no need for a lawyer in intestate case (no will). Just appoint someone as legal representative to do representation to OA. I myself have handled two such cases, for my mother (at my father's death) and for my aunt (at my uncle's death). The process would take 4 to 6 months and a few trips to OA, court and other departments concerned, cost a few hundred dollars, but certainly not S$5,000.

Steven said...

I think the best way is to educate people to write a will at modest cost of a few hundreds $. This solve the problem for most people. The cost of time is different for everyone depending on your profession so if it is tedious and time consuming, what cost you think is reasonable to charge?

silverybay said...

I paid about $3k to administer my late father's estate. Indeed there's quite a bundle of paperwork and documents to submit and signed, plus a few visits to a Commissioner of Oath. Not something a layman can follow thru unless you have a lot of free time.

Wilfred said...

Actually the legal fee is the least to worry about as it is almost insignificant compared to the size of the estate. There is nothing stopping the family from charging the legal fees to the estate.

The real cost isn't the legal fee. The true cost is when the family is unable to decide who shall be the Administrator because of the need of other eligible Administrators to renounce their rights to be one. Nobody will be so silly to renounce their rights to be Administrator. But of course, in Singapore most people are financially illiterate to begin with and thus will not have any idea the implication of renouncing their rights to be Administrator.

Other non-legal fees incur will be when two surties have to be found because of large estate or when there are minors. Again, never ever be a surety but as usual in Singapore most people are financially illiterate and does not know the implication of it.

pacific202 said...

$5,000 is definitely excessive. 3 years ago I paid $2,500 for probate work.

starlight said...

We always think that matters that deal with law or courts are too complicated for a layman to understand. Thus we are at the mercy of lawyers, so to speak.
Does having a will solve or fasten the process? If so, perhaps, having a will written may be a wise decision.

Spur said...

Having a will merely means that you expressed in black & white how you want your assets to be distributed / protected after you're gone. Contrast with having no will and dying intestate, where your assets will then be distributed according to the law as spelled out in the Intestate Succession Act.

To execute your will, the named executor(s) in your will still need to go thru the process to obtain the Grant Of Probate. So if your executors are unable to afford the time & effort, they still need to pay a few thousand dollars to get a lawyer.

I have helped with some of my relatives, but quite standard cases e.g. simple property like HDB or condo, bank accounts, brokerage accounts. No businesses with various business partners, multiple properties with tenancy-in-common with many owners etc. Usual money spent if DIY is a few hundred dollars, mostly in stamp duties.

Btw, you still need to pay conveyancing fees and stamp duty to transfer ownership of condo or HDB (if allowed) e.g. to the children. For private property it is another few thousand. For HDB it is $100++.

Chua Mei Ling said...

Hi all
Just want to thank u guys for helping me save some money. I was quoted 3.5k to do a probate grant n it excludes additional costs like disbursement. I thought it was the norm til o read this post. So i did a search n found another law firm going it for 1.8k! Even with additional costs of 500, its still cheaper than previously quoted. Anyway, I'll kept u guys posted.

Chris Ng said...

Hi Miss Chua,

I was also quoted 3.5K to do the grant of probate for my dad who passed on last week. I would appreciate if you could share your personal comments on the service and work done by the law firm you engaged which quoted 1.8K. As dad's will is specifically for the HDB flat, I thought that 3.5K is rather high. Thank you.

Chua Mei Ling said...

U can do a search on the internet to compare prices. The law firm i engaged is good enough to do the job. The final bill is about 2.3k after all the disbursement n fees.

Chua Mei Ling said...

Hi Chris
The law firm has just notified me that the application is completed. The final bill comes out to be 2.3k. I am pretty satisfied with the service n price. Like i say just do a quick search on the internet to compare the prices.

Chua Mei Ling said...

Hi Chris

My grant of probate has just been issued. The final bill works out to be under 2.3k.
You can do a search for the law firms over the internet to compare the prices.

Cynthia Lin said...

Hi Ms Chua,

My dad had passed on last week and we need to get a Letter of Administration for his matters. We have been quoted from 3k & above.

We appreciate if you can share the law firm that you had seeked advice from.

Thank you.


Alina said...

We actually walked and called a few law firms asking for quotes and found one that charges a basic of 1.8k. We applied for their services on 18th May and it took them 7 months, inclusive of the period we had to make arrangements to sign the documents. Most of the law firms in Chinatown charges over 3k. It's best if you just call the law firms to ask for quotes. The final bill for our case turns out to be below 2.4k. No will in our case, so we applied for Grant for Letters of Administration.

Me said...

I helped my wife with the Grant of Probate process after her father passed away leaving behind a Will and just completed the whole process. We did it on our own at a cost of less than S$500 and took us exactly 2 weeks, no more no less. The $500 was spent entirely on document filing fees, certified true copies of required docs, admin of oath and some minor service fees from service bureau. The process was tedious, cumbersome, sometimes I wonder if these legal processes are there just to create work for lawyers, no wonder many lawyers are rich. We made a total of 4 visits to the Service Bureau for document submission and collection and 1 visit to Sub-court to submit original Will. We followed the toolkit (see below link) and with the kind and helpful advise of personnel from service bureau (I really appreciate their help).

I am no expert, but I can give you some advice if anyone needs help. Just email me at I am doing this because I think law firms here are simply ripping people off. They are quoting high charges because they think people don't mind since if there is a Will, there is money inside that doesn't belong to you in the first place.

Download Probate and Administration toolkit here, and following every single word!!

Roy Chan

Jerry Chew said...

Can advise which law firm you using?

ltann17 said...

Hi Ms Chua
Appreciate if you can share the name of the law firm ?

Me said...

Following my post of July 4, many people contacted me and some have successfully gotten their grant of probate or LOA done on their own simply by following the toolkit and templates provided. Some are not so simple or involved non-citizens or overseas assets so I had to advise them to find a lawyer. I am NOT a lawyer myself.

Before you write to me, I have one simple request. Please read the entire toolkit from cover to cover first. You may realize that it already answers your questions. If you have not, then it is very difficult for me to give you any advise.

Toolkit Link -

Template Link -

Roy Chan

vedanta08 said...

My father recently passed away in India without a will and left behind an account in Singapore. We have already obtained the letter of administration in India and are now trying to have this resealed in Singapore. However all lawyers we have contacted so far are quoting in excess of SGD7000. Can someone on this forum assist or guide me to a lawyer who isn't a rip off.

Appreciate your help.


Eileen Tay said...

The grant of probate aren't so expensive... I got my dad's estate done for about sgd1500 last year. I think depending on how complicated is the probate. Btw, my dad did have a will before his death... It is using the will we applied for the grant of probate.

rakesh rocky said...

Hi vedanta08,
My father recently passed away in Singapore without a will and left behind a bank account in Singapore. Can u let me know how to appply for the letter of administration in India.
It will be very help full to me.
Thank you,

E.F. said...

I do not quite understand... since we need to pay lawyer for getting either the grant of probate or letter of administration, what is the advantage of writing a will... besides distributing your assets according to your wish?

Is it that getting LOA is more time consuming and the lawyer fee is higher?

E.F. said...

The bank balance or share value in CDP may be just a few thousands dollars and it is definitely not worth to engage a lawyer. ... So what will happen if we do not apply for GOP and LOA?

Another question is ... is it alright to transfer the deceased's bank balance using e.g. Internet banking before the account is being frozen? Has anyone done it before?

Fer said...


Could anyone recommend a lawyer which can handle Letter of Administration ASAP (if possible within a month) and is reasonable in their price?

Appreciate revert soon.

Fer said...


Any recommendations for a lawyer who can handle LOA asap (preferably settle within a month) and at a reasonable rate?

Appreciate help soonest. Thanks!

Sharon Toh said...

The cheapest I have found so far for getting the grant of Letters of Administration for the estate of my late father who died intestate is this law firm:
Usually charges $1.5k NETT (inclusive of filing fee) for assets < $350k. Ours is around $500k, and he charges $1.7k. I have received quotes from other firms ranging from 3k to 5k for the same thing! Those who are looking for a lawyer for Letters of Administration or Probate may want to try the aforementioned law firm. They are located in People's Park Centre.

Sharon Toh said...

As I was sent a message asking me whether the $1.7k I paid (as mentioned in my previous post) included the filing fees and disbursements payable to the courts, I thought I should post a clarification here as well for the benefit of anyone potentially reading this blog.

Yes, the $1.7k is NETT, including all disimbursements and fees.

We had our grant of Letters of Administration extracted from the State Courts within one (1) month. However, I think the time taken may vary from case to case, perhaps depending on how complicated it is. Some cases may take a longer time.

Marianne Lee said...

My dad passed away without a will and he has 2 bank accounts which exceeded the $5k threshold, for which the banks require us to provide a letter of administration. As the balances are not significant, we are exploring if it is possible to apply the letter of administration by ourselves instead of engaging a lawyer. I understand that there have been some changes in the procedues since the blogger Roy last did it. I have not been able to find the required info on the internet. Therefore, greatly appreciate if anyone who has done it recently can advise on the current procedures. Thanks.

Freddy Ng said...


I am also looking for the same updated toolkit that Marianne has asked and as the Singapore courts have gone through a revamp - Probate matters are now handled by the Family Justice Courts since Jan this year, the websites have also gone through a refresh and I can't even find the original toolkit when I googled.

It will be much appreciated if there is an updated one that anyone can share with me.


GY said...

Could not find the process of how to submit a request for administration but here's the link to the forms for probate and adminstration .

GY said...

Found the link to the probate/ letter of administration forms :

Though wish there's a clear process given.

SP said...

As mentioned in the comments above, things have changed slightly since probate matters have been taken over by the Family Justice Courts.

Hopefully, this will help clarify the process a little more for those looking to DIY.
It's a rough breakdown of the process for getting the grant of probate and for getting letters of administration.

How to apply for Grant of Probate in Singapore

How to apply for Letters of Administration in Singapore

If you'd like to find out more about how probate in Singapore works in general, you can also check out the learning centre of Singapore Probate

Tee Yang said...

Found a step-by-step guide on obtaining a grant of probate:

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