Oral answer by Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, to Parliamentary Question on the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act
9 Jul 2012 Posted in [Parliamentary speeches and responses(/news/parliamentary-speeches)
Mr Hri Kumar Nair, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC
To ask the Minister for Law following the observations of the Court of Appeal in AOS v Estate of AOT, Deceased  SGCA 30, whether the Ministry will consider amending the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act to incorporate the “surviving spouse standard” which accords a different approach to the current “reasonable maintenance standard”.
The Inheritance (Family Provision) Act empowers the court to make reasonable provisions for the maintenance of a deceased person’s dependants or spouse. Mr Kumar refers to this as the “reasonable maintenance” standard.
His reference to the “surviving spouse standard” is taken from the amendments made to the 1938 UK Inheritance (Family Provision) Act. Those amendments were made following the UK Law Commission’s recommendation that the court’s powers to order a fair and equitable division of family assets between spouses should be the same, whether the marriage was terminated by death or by divorce.
The amendments thus allow the UK courts to order, in favour of a surviving spouse, such financial provision as would be reasonable in all the circumstances. What is reasonable financial provision is not confined by what is required for the surviving spouse’s maintenance. Financial provisions for other dependants remained confined by the “reasonable maintenance standard”.
In the recent AOS case, the Singapore Court of Appeal held that its powers under our Act are confined to making reasonable financial provision for maintenance. It was not empowered to make financial provision which goes above and beyond what is reasonable for maintaining the deceased’s dependant. The Court of Appeal went on to invite Parliament to consider whether to adopt the changes made to the UK Act.
We are studying the Court of Appeal’s judgment and whether the law in this area should be changed and we will update the House once we have come to a view.
Last updated on 25 Nov 2012