10 Sep 2012 Posted in Press releases
Affected Acts. The Civil Law (Amendment) Bill 2012 proposes amendments to the Civil Law Act (CLA) and the Public Trustee Act (PTA).
Background. When a person dies intestate with no entitled next-of-kin, his assets will devolve to the Government by virtue of the Intestate Succession Act 1. Section 27 of the CLA in turn confers a discretion on the Minister for Law to distribute such ownerless assets (known as “bona vacantia” (BV)) to persons who can establish an “equitable or moral” claim, rather than being accrued to the Government’s Consolidated Fund.
Such equitable or moral claimants are typically persons whom the deceased may have reasonably expected to leave his assets to. This could be in recognition of their close relationship with the deceased or for the care rendered to the deceased during his lifetime 2.
- Key changes. In order to better address the range of situations that could arise, the Civil Law (Amendment) Bill seeks:
- To expand the categories of assets available for distribution, and clarify the scope and process for the disposition of assets under that section; and
- To empower the Minister, under the PTA, to assign functions to the Public Trustee (PT) for the distribution of BV assets to deserving claimants.
- Summary of Key Changes
- Expanding the categories of assets and to clarify how they are distributed
- Presently, certain categories of property are deemed by law not to form part of a deceased person’s estate after his death 3 (Non-Estate Properties). As a result, Non-Estate Properties cannot be distributed to deserving claimants, since section 27 of the CLA applies only to assets of a deceased’s estate.
- The rationale for excluding these Non-Estate Properties from a deceased’s estate is to ensure that these Non-Estate Properties are protected from a deceased’s creditors for the benefit of the entitled next-of-kin. However, this reason does not apply where there is no entitled next-of-kin.
- The amendments will bring such Non-Estate Properties within the ambit of the Minister for Law’s BV discretion. The other amendments in the Bill are of a technical nature.
- Assignment of functions to the PT
- The Bill makes related amendments to the PTA to allow the Minister to assign specific functions for the distribution of BV assets to the PT. 4
- Given that the PT already administers small estates of deceased persons of up to $50,000 5, the PT has the expertise to deal with BV cases. The amendments will capitalise on this.
- This Bill is part of the Ministry of Law’s continued law reform efforts. It will further clarify the scope of Minister’s role in relation to equitable or moral claimants, and enhance internal processes to deal with such claims.
 This Act provides the rules of distribution for the assets of a person who dies intestate (i.e. without a will or one that is defective).
 On average, the Minister for Law deals with 1 to 2 cases per year, and these have generally been in relation to persons with quasi-family ties who regarded the deceased as a family member, or to nursing homes to help defray unpaid expenses incurred in caring for the deceased during his residence.
 These include: (i) CPF money for which no prior or valid nomination was made (sections 24(3A) and 25 of the CPF Act); (ii) Edusave and Post-Secondary Education Fund money (sections 16 and 16H of the Education Endowment and Savings Schemes Act); and (iii) Money placed in a Child Development Account (section 6 of the Child Development Co-Savings Act).
 These functions include a n assessment that the claim falls within the scope of section 27 CLA, and of the strengths of the moral and equitable claims .
 Section 6 of Probate and Administration Act and section 6 of Public Trustee Act.
Last updated on 04 Feb 2013