When a person passes away, his/ her assets are distributed according to his/ her Will. If there is no Will, the assets are distributed according to the rules under Section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act. There will be some instances where the manner the assets are distributed fail to adequately provide for the welfare of the deceased’s dependants. The dependant may then ask: how to claim maintenance from the deceased’s estate?
The Inheritance (Family Provision) Act serves to remedy situations where the dependants are in financial need and not adequately provided for as per the Will of the deceased or the rules under the Intestate Succession Act.
Who May Apply for Maintenance?
A dependant who is not adequately provided for by the distribution of the deceased’s assets may apply to the Court. A dependant may be:
1. The spouse of the deceased.
2. An infant son of the deceased.
3. A son of the deceased who has some mental or physical disability and incapable of maintaining himself.
4. A daughter who is unmarried or who has some mental or physical disability and incapable of maintaining herself.
Illegitimate children are unable to apply for maintenance under the law.
If the application is successful, the Court may alter the original distribution of the deceased’s estate to provide for the maintenance to the dependant(s).
When Must the Application be Made?
The application must be made within 6 months from the date on which the application for probate/ letters of administration is made. The deadline may be extended at the discretion of the Court.
Application may not be made if the surviving spouse is already entitled to at least 2/3 of the income arising out of the nett value of the estate and where the only other dependant(s) are children of the surviving spouse.
What will the Court Consider in Making a Decision?
The Court will consider the following factors:
1. The financial situation of the dependant.
2. The conduct of the dependant in respect to the deceased.
3. The reasons for the deceased in making or not making a Will, and the relationship of the deceased and the dependant.
How is Maintenance Paid Out?
Maintenance is paid out of the income arising from the assets left behind by the deceased. Alternatively, the deceased’s properties may be sold to generate income for the maintenance. Payments are generally done periodically. However, payments may be terminated if:
1. The dependant spouse gets remarried.
2. The daughter who has not been married gets married.
3. The daughter/ son who has a disability which prevents him/ her from maintaining himself/ herself stops having the said disability.
4. An infant son reaching the age of 21.
5. The death of the dependant.
If the deceased had left behind assets less than S$50,000.00 in value, the Court has the power to order a lump sum maintenance, rather than periodic payments.
You should consult an experienced probate lawyer if you have further questions on how to claim maintenance from the deceased’s estate.
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