Second Reading Speech by Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam, on the Civil Law (Amendment) Bill
1 Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a Second time.”
2 Sir, this Bill clarifies the Minister’s powers in relation to property which devolves to the Government on the death of a person if he does so without a will and without next of kin. It also provides for the administration of such property.
3 Under the Intestate Succession Act, the assets in a deceased’s estate devolves to the Government if he dies without a valid will, and without any next of kin entitled under the Intestate Succession Act. Under section 27 of the Civil Law Act: the Minister may transfer such property to any person(s) who has “an equitable or moral claim thereto”, for example, a person who has taken care of, or provided for, the deceased.
4 Clause 2 amends section 27 of the Civil Law Act. It clarifies that the Minister’s power to distribute property which has devolved to the Government extends to both real and personal property within the deceased’s estate.
5 The Minister’s power is also expanded to include the property of a deceased which, while not part of a deceased’s estate, has devolved to the Government under any written law which is gazetted by the Minister. One example is CPF monies where no nomination has been made. Such property is now excluded by law from the deceased’s estate to protect them from creditors. This is for the benefit of entitled next-of-kin. But when there is no entitled next-of-kin, it is only fair that such property can go to someone with an equitable or moral claim.
6 The amendments will not affect the disposal of property according to Muslim law. That will continue to be dealt with under the Administration of Muslim Law Act.
7 Clause 2 also clarifies that the procedure by which the Minister may exercise his powers.
Administration of bona vacantia property
8 Clause 3 of the Bill amends section 4 of the Public Trustee Act.
9 The amendment will allow the Minister to assign functions and duties of the Public Trustee in relation to property which has devolved to the Government, which may now include the administration of estates with such property. This will build on the Public Trustee’s existing role and experience in administering small estates.
10 Sir, the Bill is part of my Ministry’s continuing efforts to reform technical areas of the law. I beg to move.