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HDB Flat Ownership: What Happens After a Life Event Occurs?

Important things to keep in mind for when life happens.

Chances are, you haven’t given them much thought, but major life events like a divorce or the passing of a family member could have a big effect on your life – and also, your HDB flat.

Who owns it after that? What’s needed for a transfer of ownership? Is there any ownership criteria to be met? We let MyNiceHome answer all of these questions and also highlight some important eligibility conditions for flat ownership that could possibly aid your future estate planning.

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In the event of a passing, who takes over ownership of an HDB flat?

Most flats in Singapore are joint-owned by a husband-and-wife OR parent-and-child pair, so if one of the joint-owners passes away, his or her share of the flat can be transferred to a living co-owner.

However, if an HDB flat is owned solely by a single individual, their share of the flat will be distributed to any appointed beneficiaries named in their will. Otherwise, in the event that there isn’t a will, a court order will be needed to acquire the legal authority to manage the deceased’s estate.

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In these scenarios, the legal documents required are respectively the Grant of Probate (if there’s a will) or the Grant of Letters of Administration (if there isn’t a will).

Once these Grants have been obtained, beneficiaries can engage their own solicitor or appoint an HDB solicitor to register their legal rights as an Executor or Administrator, before applying at the HDB Branch in charge of the flat to allow the transfer to take place.

If a divorce happens, what are your options as an HDB flat owner?

In the event that a divorce takes place, the parties involved will have to decide between themselves on how the ownership of their HDB flat is to be handled as a matrimonial home. First off, there’s the option of selling off the flat – but do take note that this can only take place with the mutual agreement of all owners.

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The other course of action would be to apply for a transfer of flat ownership from one spouse to another, which may take place under a Court order. However, as the remaining family or single occupier, you’ll only be able to retain flat ownership if you are:

  • A Singapore Citizen or Singapore PR
  • At least 21 years of age
  • Able to fulfil HDB’s eligibility conditions own an HDB flat (see section below)

Aside from meeting these conditions, you’ll also need to decide on the manner of holding (i.e. determining who has the rights to an HDB flat) if there’s more than one proposed owner.

This can take place in two ways:

  • Joint Tenancy: Under this arrangement, each of the co-owners together own the whole interest in the flat.
  • Tenancy-in-common: In this case, each co-owner holds a separate and distinct share in the flat.

You may also wish to refer to this page for additional information regarding the transfer of flat ownership due to divorce.

What are HDB’s eligibility conditions for taking over flat ownership?

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Before applying for transfer of flat ownership, there are a number of important eligibility conditions that a proposed flat owner has to fulfil. He or she must:

A. Not be an existing owner OR be listed as the occupier of another HDB flat.

B. Be able to take over ownership of the flat under one of the existing eligibility schemes as follows:

  1. Public Scheme: Own an HDB flat with a family member, usually children if you’re widowed or divorced.

  2. Single Singapore Citizen Scheme: Own an HDB flat as a single person. You must be at least 35 years old if you’re unmarried or divorced OR at least 21 years old if you’re widowed or an orphan.

  3. Joint Singles Scheme: Own an HDB flat together with up to 3 other singles. The same age requirements as the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme apply here too.

  4. Orphans Scheme: Own an HDB flat together with your siblings if you’re orphans and single (i.e. unmarried, divorced or widowed).

For specific steps on how to apply for a transfer of flat ownership, see here for HDB's guide.

This article was adapted from MyNiceHome, HDB’s official website for all things related to home buying and renovation in Singapore. Check out the original articles here and here.

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