Kith & Kin

Bona Vacantia: Dying Without a Will or Next of Kin in Singapore

pen of a person with bona vacantia estate

In Singapore, section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act is enforced to distribute the deceased’s estate to the surviving next of kin if he or she passes away without a will. But what if you die without a will and next-of-kin in Singapore? Rightfully, the government will get the estate if the deceased does not have any surviving relatives, however there is the concept of Bona Vacantia that applies before that happens.

What is Bona Vacantia?

Bona Vacantia means “ownerless goods” or “vacant goods”. It refers to the assets in the estate of a deceased person who has no valid will and no surviving next-of-kin that can inherit the estate as specified in the Intestate Succession Act.

Adhering to Singapore law, the government will take ownership of such assets.

Who Can Make a Claim on Bona Vacantia Estate in Singapore?

As stated in section 27 of the Civil Law Act, anyone who is able to make an “equitable or moral claim” on a Bona Vacantia estate may be able to claim the assets in the estate. 

The claimant will have to provide evidence to support the claim as well as prove that the deceased has no surviving relative that can inherit the estate according to the Intestate Succession Act.

Upon valid proof and documentation, the Public Trustee will then assesses the claim based on these factors:

  • Length and nature of the relationship between the deceased and the claimant;
  • Any legal or moral obligations which the deceased had towards the claimant;
  • Claimant’s behaviour towards the deceased in his/her lifetime, including contributions (if any) made by the claimant to the welfare of the deceased;
  • Last wishes of the deceased.

What Type of Assets Can Be the Subject of an Equitable or Moral Claim?

All types of assets, both movable and immovable, including un-nominated Central Provident Fund monies can be the subject of an equitable or moral claim.

When To Make a Claim on a Bona Vacantia Estate in Singapore?

There is a waiting period before you can make a claim on such estates; 3 years from the date of death for estates that involve immovable property and 6 months from the date of death for estates that do not involve immovable property.

Upon expiry of the waiting period, you can then make a claim against the Bona Vacantia estate.

How To Make a Claim on a Bona Vacantia Estate in Singapore?

For estates worth $50,000 or less, the claim can be made through the Public Trustee, while estates that are worth more than $50,000 require a Grant of Letters of Administration before you can make a claim on the estate.

Do You Need a Lawyer To Make a Claim on a Bona Vacantia Estate?

While you do not need a lawyer to do so, the process to make a claim on a Bona Vacantia estate in Singapore can be lengthy and challenging for a person with no prior knowledge in this field thus it is recommended to engage professional help to ensure that you do not miss out any important aspects that could impede the process, just like how you would want to avoid common mistakes when writing a will so that the chances of it being contested are decreased.

If you need the services of a letters of administration lawyer, are planning to make a claim on a Bona Vacantia estate or have any questions about will writing in Singapore and require professional estate planning assistance, feel free to get in touch with us.