HDB Inheritance Rules in Death, Divorce & Major Life Events

Zhen Hao Guo

Zhen Hao Guo

Life can change in an instant. One day you’re moving into your new home in newlywed bliss and the next you’re signing divorce papers, looking up “HDB inheritance during divorce” on Google to see if you can retain ownership of your HDB flat.

Or you could have just lost a loved one and, overwhelmed with having to settle so many other matters, are panic-searching on Google in the middle of the night: How to lodge Notice of Death?

You’re hearing a lot of information from people and your online research that you end up even more confused and unsure of what to do. 

And we get it. It’s hard enough navigating these major life changes without having to figure out which of the different HDB inheritance rules apply to you. Here’s all you need to know.

Are you eligible to retain ownership of the HDB flat?

The first question that the remaining family members have to answer is whether they are eligible to retain the flat. According to HDB’s rules, they must fulfil the following eligibility requirements on top of satisfying HDB’s eligibility conditions to flat ownership:

  • Singapore Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR)
  • At least 21 years old

What happens when an HDB flat owner passes away?

A deceased HDB owner’s property will be distributed based on the following factors:

  • A Will has been left by the deceased owner
  • The deceased owner is Muslim or Non-Muslim
  • There are joint owners to the property

HDB inheritance and distribution for deceased Non-Muslim owners

The Family Justice Court will handle estate distribution of Non-Muslims.

Once a court has verified and validated a deceased owner’s Will, their property will be distributed accordingly if they are Non-Muslim. But before a property can be distributed, the deceased’s family must first engage a lawyer to obtain a Grant of Probate, which will grant the named executor within the Will legal authority to manage the property.

However, if no Will is involved, the Intestate Succession Act will kick in. The property will be distributed to the deceased individual’s spouse, children, parents, siblings, and grandparents in that order of priority. The following table summarises how much each family member will receive, according to the deceased’s marital status and whether or not they have children. 

Owner’s marital statusSpouseChildrenParentsSiblingsGrandparents
Married, with children50%50%xxx
Married, without children50%x50%xx
Married, with children but without spousex100%xxx
Married, without children or parents100%xxxx
Singlexx100%xx
Single, without parentsxxx100%x
Single, without parents or siblingsxxxx100%
Source: Singapore Legal Advice

Do note that in order to obtain legal authority to manage the deceased’s estate, a lawyer must first be engaged to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration. An administrator and or executor will also be granted the power to perform duties including the signing of relevant documents, paying fees such as stamp fees and conveyancing fees), as well as applying at the HDB Branch managing the deceased’s flat to transfer the flat to the flat’s new owners.

Should the deceased individual have no immediate family members, the ownership of the flat will go to distant family members such as nieces, nephews, aunts, or uncles. In the event that no such individuals exist, the flat will be returned to the state.

HDB inheritance and distribution for deceased Muslim owners

A deceased Muslim owner’s property will be dealt with according to the Islamic Inheritance Law known as Faraid, which is administered by the Syariah Court. The Syariah Court will issue an Inheritance Certificate outlining the shares of beneficiaries based on whether or not the deceased left behind a Will. The Inheritance Certificate must be obtained before applications for Grant of Letters of Administration or the Grant of Probate are submitted.

If the deceased did not leave behind a Will, then their next-of-kin and/or estate beneficiaries are typically appointed to be administrators of the estate distribution. They will be required to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration for the distribution of estate as outlined in the Inheritance Certificate. Note that only estate assets will be distributed. Jointly owned property, joint bank accounts, nominated CPF monies, and nominated insurance policies, do not fall under Faraid and will not be distributed to beneficiaries.

If a WIll is involved, the named executors and trustees of the Will have to apply for a Grant of Probate instead. The executor has the legal authority to manage the deceased’s estate. However, Islamic Inheritance Law dictates that the owner may only pass on one-third of his property to beneficiaries. The remaining two-thirds will be distributed according to the remainder of the estate according to Faraid. Additionally, the deceased is also not permitted to provide other benefits or property to Faraid beneficiaries.

What if a joint-owner is still around? 

Joint-owner(s) who are still around after the owner’s death will receive their share or interest in the flat accordingly. To be eligible for receiving their share, the surviving owners will have to lodge a Notice of Death together with a Lodgment Form at the Singapore Land Authority’s office.

Lodging a Notice of Death will require applicants to bring along the following documents:

  • Original death certificate of the deceased owner
  • Identity cards of the remaining joint-owners
  • Documents on the duplicate lease (if any)

What happens to HDB flats if the owners get a divorce?

HDB flat owners may retain home ownership depending on whether they still retain custody over their children. Failing which, they may take over ownership of the flat if they fulfil HDB’s eligibility criteria for singles. 

Divorced with children

Parents with custody over their child will be allowed to retain their flat provided that their divorce was not a result of non-consummation of marriage, or annulment, or a broken engagement.

Custody is defined as a parent having both care and control of their child.

Divorced without children

If a parent loses custody of their child or had no children from their marriage to begin with, they may only retain the flat as the sole owner if they are:

If an individual fails to meet the above criteria, they may still retain their flat by including an additional person within the ownership document. 

Selling your HDB flat after divorce

Divorced individuals who wish to let go of their flat instead may sell their home on the open market provided they’ve satisfied the Minimum Occupancy Period by the divorce completion date. Should the divorced parties not be eligible to retain the flat nor sell it on the open market, their property will be returned to the state in exchange for an appropriate compensation according to HDB’s valuators.

What happens to the HDB flat if you revoke your Singaporean Citizenship or Singapore Permanent Resident status?

Individuals who give up their status as a Singapore Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) will have their flat ownership eligibility reviewed. In most cases, this typically means having to sell their flat on the open market, since only SCs and SPRs are permitted to possess HDB flats. Should a resale not be possible due to MOP restrictions, owners will once again be compensated accordingly based on HDB’s valuation of their property.

Can you request to keep your flat under special circumstances?

The events covered in this article can be devastating and even traumatising to any individual. While there are always due processes involved to facilitate ownership and ensure that people do not abuse the public housing system, authorities also understand that the family members involved are going through a difficult time. If you wish to retain your flat despite not being eligible, you may request for flat retention under special circumstances by writing an email that includes your flat details and household members’ particulars to your managing HDB branch.

But if you’re considering selling your HDB flat, Ohmyhome is here to be by your side. Our Super Agents are CEA-certified and among the Top 1% in Singapore. With more than 8,000 happy customers served, we’ve garnered 4-star ratings on both Facebook and Google!

Secure an appointment with any of our Super Agents by dropping us a message in the chatbox at the bottom, right-hand corner of the screen, or via WhatsApp. We’ll be in touch with you in less than 15 minutes.

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