Passing on property as an inheritance

Whether you are married with children or single with elderly parents to support, prepare a will if you want to decide exactly how your property should be distributed

GuocoLand’s Dora Chng says property in Singapore is a good asset class for transfers between generations. PHOTO: GUOCOLAND
Sim Mong Teck & Partners’ Jacintha Pillay says many people now buy properties in trust for their children. PHOTO: Sim Mong Teck & Partners

Maybe you own a condominium or a Housing Board flat, and you want to leave that property to the next generation. In all likelihood, you will need a will, a family trust or life estate.

According to Ms Jacintha Pillay, a partner at Sim Mong Teck & Partners, there are several intricacies of inheritance laws here that property owners should take note of.

No will

Ms Pillay said: "If you don't have a will in place, it becomes a little bit complicated because essentially, when a person passes on, things don't just automatically get distributed to their next of kin.

"Ultimately, the whole point of acquiring assets is to ensure there's a transition to your loved one."

Without a plan and a will, the manner in which assets such as property are distributed upon the demise of the owner will be decided by the courts.

"Take a married couple, no children, upon their demise, their assets will be 50 per cent to the spouse and 50 per cent to the surviving parents in equal shares, but that may not be the ideal distribution method. You may want to give everything to the surviving spouse, or give a portion to nieces and nephews.

"So it's important for you to plan, to look into your own specific family situation and needs, and then determine how you want your assets to be distributed."


Ms Pillay said: "For singles, the distribution would be according to the intestacy laws based on next of kin. So, if you are single, you have no children, then everything goes to the parents. If there are no parents, then it goes to your siblings, and so on.

"Again, this is something that has to be looked into carefully because we've done so many wills for clients who are single and a lot of times, they want to provide more for certain siblings who have a particular need. They also want to provide for specific nephews or nieces or even charitable organisations."

Setting up a trust

Ms Pillay added: "Many Singaporeans and foreigners are buying properties in trust for their children, and that usually arises when the parents want to gift real estate to their children who are still minors.

"In Singapore, you need to be 21 years old and above to own property. So it could be due to succession planning reasons... or it could be that the parents want to ensure the children have a roof over their heads, without having to contend with property prices skyrocketing by the time the children turn 21.

"The only way they can do that is to employ the means of the trust arrangement to hold the property as the legal owner while the child is still a minor."

However, buyers who want to place properties under a trust will have to cough up cash, as banks do not usually finance this sort of purchase, added Ms Pillay.

Property in Singapore has generally been seen as a good hedge against short-term economic uncertainties and a good asset class for inter-generational transfers, said GuocoLand general manager Dora Chng.

"In my view, property will always be an effective hedge in the mid- to long-term period. Singapore's appeal as a business launch pad means the Singapore dollar is very much in demand, looking at the history of our currency. We actually anticipate our buyers' assets to appreciate in the long term."

• For more, tune in to Your Money with Michelle Martin on weekdays from 9am to noon.

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