Thursday 10 December 2015

CPF monies not covered by a will

Under the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Act, CPF monies do not form part of a deceased member's estate and are not covered by a will ("Hassle to claim late grandma's CPF money" by Ms Chan Jee May; Nov 30).

CPF members who wish to specify who will receive their CPF monies, and how much each nominee should receive upon their demise, can make a CPF nomination.

Where CPF members have not made a nomination, their CPF monies will be passed to the public trustee for distribution under the intestacy/ inheritance laws of Singapore.

As Ms Chan's grandmother had not made a nomination for her CPF monies, the CPF Board forwarded the monies to the Public Trustee's Office (PTO), which serves as the administrator of un-nominated CPF monies.

The PTO is required to verify that a claimant is recognised as a beneficiary under the law, in order to distribute un-nominated CPF monies.

As part of the verification process, the claimant is required to provide supporting documentation, such as birth and marriage certificates.

In this specific case, as the required documents are not available, the claimant was advised to arrange for her grandmother's brother to make a statutory declaration on the relationship.

This can be done either with a lawyer or at the PTO's premises.

Once the statutory declaration has been made, the PTO will then assess the claim, based on the information provided in the statutory declaration.

The CPF Board and PTO have contacted Ms Chan to clarify the process and will provide the necessary assistance to resolve the matter.

Praveen Randhawa (Ms)
Corporate Communications Ministry of Law

Irene Kang (Ms)
Group Director of Communications
Central Provident Fund Board
ST Forum, 9 Dec 2015

#DidYouKnow your CPF Savings are not covered under a Will? Your CPF savings do not form part of your estate and are...
Posted by CPF Board on Thursday, January 21, 2016

Death and the CPF money of your loved ones
The Straits Times, 9 Dec 2015

If a CPF nomination has been made, the CPF Board will get in touch with the nominees within 15 working days of learning of the death. If no nomination was made, the Public Trustee Office (PTO) will disburse the deceased's CPF money according to the inheritance laws of Singapore, which are:

If survived only by their spouse, all money goes to their spouse

If survived by their spouse and children, half the money goes to the spouse and the other half is split equally among the children. Where the children have died, it will go to the children's children

If survived by their children but not their spouse, the money will be split among the children

If survived by their parents but neither spouse nor children, all money goes to the parents

If survived by none of the above, the money will be shared among, firstly, their siblings or their siblings' children if the siblings have died; if no surviving siblings, their grandparents; if no surviving grandparents, their aunts and uncles.

Sisters give up bid for grandma's CPF money
They can't find documents proving their ties; authorities say CPF sum not covered by will
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 9 Dec 2015

They were hoping to use their late grandmother's Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings to pay her funeral expenses.

But after waiting for more than a year, property agent Chan Jee May and her two sisters have decided to give up the fight.

The sisters lack the documents to prove they are related to Madam Lau Pei Ling, who died last October aged 93.

In a forum letter to The Straits Times published on Nov 30, Ms Chan lamented the "many hurdles" they faced in trying to prove their relationship to a woman who had left everything to them in her will.

Ms Chan, 36, said: "It's not like anyone is disputing our claim. The rest of our family thinks the money should go to us. I think the claims procedure could be more flexible."

A spokesman for the Public Trustee's Office (PTO), which disburses the CPF money of those who did not nominate beneficiaries before their death, said: "Under the CPF Act, CPF monies do not form part of the deceased member's estate and are not covered by a will."

The spokesman added that the PTO "will hold onto the monies indefinitely until the beneficiaries come forward to claim (them)".

Madam Lau had not nominated anyone to receive her CPF money, which Ms Chan estimated to be between $6,000 and $7,000, before she succumbed to colon cancer.

Ms Chan and her sisters, who are civil servants aged 36 and 38, are not the biological grandchildren of Madam Lau, who married their grandfather after the death of his first wife. The couple wed in a last-minute arranged ceremony during World War II and did not have a marriage certificate.

The sisters were orphaned as teenagers and were close to Madam Lau growing up. After she had a bad fall five or six years ago, they paid her hospital bill as well as for a helper to take care of her. And, until her death, the sisters would visit her almost every weekend, Ms Chan said.

To prove their relationship, the sisters tried to submit to the PTO a 1978 grant of probate in which their grandfather left his Toa Payoh flat to Madam Lau after his death, but this was not accepted as valid.

They then considered asking their grandmother's brother, who is in his 90s, to help them claim the CPF money. However, the PTO required his birth certificate, which was also lost in the war.

Lawyers The Straits Times spoke to said the Chans could get their grand-uncle to make a statutory declaration about their kinship.

WongPartnership lawyer Sim Bock Eng said: "Where there is no clear documentary evidence, in law, it is possible to persuade the CPF Board to accept other forms of evidence, such as a statutory declaration stating the relationship from one or more persons who would have the requisite knowledge of the relationship.

"The person will then need to sign the statutory declaration in front of a Commissioner for Oaths as a witness."

The PTO spokesman also said the office had advised Ms Chan to get Madam Lau's brother to make a statutory declaration on their relationship, either with a lawyer or at the PTO's premises.

The sisters, however, have since decided it is not worth the effort. "If we are going to have to trouble an old man who is not really mobile to help us get the money, we would rather just let it go," said Ms Chan.

"The money would probably end up going to the lawyer anyway."

Man died before marriage could be annulled
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 9 Dec 2015

When Ms Caroline Edmund read about the Chan sisters' plight in Ms Chan Jee May's forum letter on Nov 30, she could sympathise.

The accountant, in her 50s, told The Straits Times that her family has been waiting for four years now to collect nearly $50,000 from her late brother's CPF account.

Her brother Ignatius Edmund, a 42-year-old boarding officer, had been trying to get his marriage to a Filipino woman annulled, after not hearing from her for seven years.

But before the annulment could be finalised, he was killed in a traffic collision in India.

Under Singapore's inheritance laws, Mr Edmund's parents can get only half his CPF money unless his wife comes forward to state that she does not want the money.

Ms Edmund said they hired a lawyer to track down the woman, who was found to be living in the United States with another man. All their attempts to contact her have been ignored.

Ms Edmund's mother last went to the Public Trustee's Office (PTO) in May to plead their case. She died last month. Ms Edmund's 83-year-old father is now living in India.

Ms Edmund said: "If we had the rest of the money, my dad could afford to buy an apartment in Singapore and live here... We've tried to come at it from all angles, but they (the PTO) are so rigid. I'm so tired of this whole thing."

Absence of CPF nomination

* Parents, spouse entitled to funds

Central Provident Fund (CPF) members can choose to nominate the people they want to receive their CPF monies upon their death or decide that their CPF monies be distributed to recipients under intestacy laws.

If they do not make a nomination, their CPF monies will be forwarded to the public trustee to be distributed in accordance with intestacy laws.

The public trustee has the duty to safeguard the legal rights of all beneficiaries of the monies.

In the case referred to in the Dec 9 report ("Man died before marriage could be annulled"), under the law, Mr Ignatius Edmund's parents are entitled to receive half of his CPF monies.

These were paid out to them in February 2012.

Under the law, Mr Edmund's wife is entitled to the remaining half of his CPF monies.

However, she has not claimed the monies.

As these are legally her monies, the public trustee has to hold them in trust for her until she comes forward to claim the monies, or renounces her right to them.

We understand that Mr Edmund's family now knows of her whereabouts.

We ask that the family share her contact details with us, so that we can get in touch with her.

Lim Yew Jin
Director (Trust)
Public Trustee's Office
ST Forum, 18 Dec 2015

Let CPF monies, share of HDB flats be covered by a will

The Ministry of Law and Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board stated that the CPF Act does not recognise wills, and that the distribution of CPF monies must be by official nomination ("CPF monies not covered by a will"; Wednesday).

However, the rationale for this policy was not explained. Elderly and illiterate CPF members may not understand or know the procedures on the distribution of CPF monies upon their death.

The authorities should review the CPF Act and streamline it so that CPF monies can be part of the deceased's estate and covered by his will. This is to make it less of a hassle for his beneficiaries; after all, a will is a legal document.

There is a similar conundrum with HDB flats. If the flat was purchased under joint tenancy, the share of the flat belonging to the dead man automatically goes to the other joint tenants, regardless of whether the dead man left a will.

If the flat was purchased under tenancy-in-common, the dead man's share of the flat will be distributed according to his will or intestacy laws.

What are the reasons behind these different policies?

Tenants can change their flat ownership from joint tenancy to tenancy-in-common if all parties agree. But some owners may not wish to alert the other co-owners on the change, to avoid animosity.

To provide more flexibility to flat owners on how they want their assets distributed, the HDB should standardise ownership of flats to just tenancy-in-common agreements.

Owners can then specify in their will how their share of the flat will be distributed, say, after the death of the other co-owner or if the surviving co-owner sells the flat.

Francis Cheng
ST Forum, 12 Dec 2015

* Why CPF monies, share of HDB flats not automatically covered by a will

We thank Mr Francis Cheng for his feedback ("Let CPF monies, share of HDB flats be covered by a will"; Dec 12).

Mr Cheng suggested reviewing the Central Provident Fund Act so that CPF monies can be covered by a will, and standardising the manner of holding of HDB flats so that owners can specify in their will how their interest in the flat can be distributed.

First, CPF monies are not meant to be part of a CPF member's estate. This has the advantage of not subjecting the member's CPF savings to his debts upon his death.

This is to protect the member's CPF monies and ensure that the member's dependants receive the monies. Moreover, if CPF monies are distributed according to a will, any disputes arising from the existence and validity of the will may delay the receipt of the CPF monies by the dependants.

It is, therefore, in the interests of both members and their dependants for un-nominated CPF monies to be distributed by a public agency outside of the member's estate, in accordance with intestacy laws.

If the CPF member wants his CPF monies to be distributed in accordance with a will, the member can make a nomination of the same beneficiaries as those under the will. Upon the member's death, the CPF Board will pay the CPF monies to the nominees directly.

Most CPF members who have died had earlier made a nomination, and we continue to encourage members to make a nomination in their lifetime.

Second, on standardising the manner of holding of HDB flats, Mr Cheng has rightly pointed out that the law allows co-owners of HDB flats to hold their property as either joint tenants or as tenants-in-common. This provides flat owners the flexibility to choose the manner of holding of their flat, based on their individual needs and circumstances.

If they would like their interest in the flat to be automatically transferred to their joint tenants, they can opt for joint tenancy.

On the other hand, if they prefer to make a will to specify how their interest in the flat will be distributed, they can opt for tenancy-in-common.

Standardising the ownership would result in flat owners no longer having a choice in the manner of holding of their flat.

Shaun Goh
Income Security Policy Division
Ministry of Manpower

Lim Lea Lea (Ms)
Director (Branch Operations)
Housing and Development Board
ST Forum, 24 Dec 2015

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