Claims on Property

Article By: PracticeForte Advisory Affiliate Ong Ying Ping

Q: If a married couple with no children were co-owners of an HDB flat and one spouse passes on, how should the family members of the deceased spouse go about laying claim to the flat against the surviving spouse? Can they even do that?

A: That depends on whether the HDB flat was owned under joint tenancy or tenancy-in-common. Under joint tenancy, each co-owner’s share is undivided. Put another way, that owner’s share cannot be willed away. Thus, should one of the co-owners pass on, his/her interest in the flat would automatically be passed on to (lawyers call this “vested in”) the surviving co-owner. This is known as the right of survivorship.

On the other hand, under tenancy-in-common, the right of survivorship does not apply. When a co-owner passes on, his/her interest in the flat will be distributed according to what is stated in his/her Will. In the absence of a Will, the state steps in, and the deceased co-owner’s interest in the flat will be distributed to the beneficiaries in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act.

Therefore, depending on the nature of the tenancy, the family members of the deceased co-owner may or may not be able to register co-ownership of the HDB flat. Situations like these also highlight the importance of creating a Will. While one is still alive and of sound mind, it would be wise to consult a lawyer to do so.

Author Ong Ying Ping

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