Widower runs into problems with CPF over will

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Mr Lim Yew Seng, 59, is facing a problem with the distribution of his late wife's CPF savings.

By Phyllis Lee

Anyone can draft a will for themselves in Singapore, as long as they meet a list of criteria.

A will is a legal document containing instructions for the distribution of one’s assets upon death. Without a will, the distribution of your assets will be handled by the state. Hence, a will ensures that any special wishes you have will be carried out without any confusion or disputes within your family.

However, there are a few key points to note for your will to be respected by the law.

1) Register your will with the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office

Depositing information about your will to the Wills Registry, maintained by the Public Trustee, makes it easier to establish its validity. While the registry does not record the actual contents of your will, testators or the appointed lawyers can submit details such as the location and date of the will.

2) Write a new will after marriage

Your will is automatically revoked upon marriage, unless its contents already takes marriage into consideration. This is because the law assumes that you would want to provide for your new family, which is why you should re-indicate who you would like your assets to go to.

On the other hand, divorce does not render a previous will invalid. Thus, you should also make a new will after divorce to ensure that your assets bequeathed to your ex-spouse will be distributed according to your current wishes.

3) Not all assets can be included in your will

Firstly, properties held in joint tenancy are not part of your estate. Upon death, they will be passed on to the surviving co-owners. This is known as the right of survivorship. You can only include your share of the property in the will if you are under the tenancy-in-common scheme.

Similarly, money from joint savings accounts will be transferred to the surviving account co-holders.

Insurance policies with a nominated beneficiary also cannot be included in a will.

Likewise, savings from your Central Provident Fund (CPF) are not covered in a will. If you want to indicate how to distribute your CPF savings, you have to make a nomination. A CPF nomination allows you to specify who will receive the savings upon your demise, and how much each nominee should receive.

Without a CPF nomination, your CPF savings will be distributed by the Public Trustee’s Office (PTO) under the Intestate Succession Act or the Certificate of Inheritance (for Muslims).

Distribution of CPF savings: Common pitfalls

Mr Lim Yew Seng, 59, whose wife passed away this April, is one of the many who is facing a problem with the distribution of CPF savings.

His late wife, Mdm How Mei Lin, first made a CPF nomination in 1981. After she tied the knot with Mr Lim in 1993, she did not make another nomination. Like a will, CPF nominations are automatically revoked by marriage, and requires a new nomination.

Unaware about this legal clause, Mdm How simply left all her assets to Mr Lim in her will. The couple does not have any children.

According to the PTO, as Mdm How did not make any valid nomination for her CPF monies, her aged parents and husband will receive half of the savings each.

PTO’s reply to Mr Lim on 31 July.

This puts Mr Lim, who has been providing for his wife since they got married, at a disadvantage.

Mdm How’s relationship with her parents and siblings has been strained for several years due to quarrels over money. Last year, she developed health issues and was later diagnosed with metastatic lung carcinoma.

Still, she refused to tell her aged parents about her condition because she didn’t want to alarm them.

When her family finally found out about her illness, they blamed Mr Lim for keeping it from them. This caused their relationship to further deteriorate.

Therefore, Mdm How’s medical and funeral expenses were borne solely by Mr Lim, who had also stepped down from his job last year to take care of her at home. He has already spent about $30,000 on her funeral expenses, which include all the necessary rituals and prayers for Buddhists. This is not taking into account the additional costs he would have to bear leading up her first death anniversary.

Mr Lim also claims that there is a discrepancy in her CPF nomination records. Records as recent as 2010 stated that she made a nomination on 23 February 1981. This was almost two decades after her marriage.

Mdm How’s CPF records in 2010.

Records in 2015 then stated that her CPF nomination has been revoked by marriage.

Mdm How’s CPF records in 2015.

The ambiguous notice about Mdm How’s CPF nomination status angered Mr Lim. In an interview with The Independent on Tuesday (5 September), he cried out in anguish:

“How do we know if it’s revoked? When they revoked her CPF nomination, they should have asked her for a re-nomination. She wasn’t informed about it being revoked. It’s their responsibility to tell us. It’s like a bank. If a bank wants to do something to my money, my rights, they have to inform me first.”

Having been the sole provider for Mdm How since she became his family, it is only natural for him to be the one receiving her CPF monies to plan for his own upcoming retirement. He has been in contact the PTO since May, but nothing has come to a resolution yet.

For people uninformed about such laws in Singapore, it’s best to start reading up and making sure that your assets will be distributed well – including those that cannot be covered in your will.

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29 comments

  1. Cer ML says:

    Also PTO sent a pile of letter with “Distribution List” indicating on the top: “Person Died Without A Will” here my late wife has a WILL & PTO claim that is just a list. My question is why sent me this Distribution List when knowing she has a WILL and that ponder me to wonder if the pile of letters sent to me is:

  2. Lim LG says:

    THIS SHIT CPFB’S FLAWED POLICY IS TRULY A PAIN IN THE NECK TO MANY SINGAPOREANS.

    I TOO FACE WITH THE PROBLEM OF MY DECEASED BROTHER’S CPF MONIES DUE TO FRAUD AND UNDUE INFLUENCE. DESPITE MY REPORTING WHILE ALL HIS CPF MONIES WERE STILL IN TACT AND THAT KNOWING MY INTENTION TO OBTAIN A COURT ORDER FOR THE MATTER, CPFB JUST IGNORED
    AND THEY WENT AHEAD TO RELEASE ALL MONIES TO THE NOMINEES.

    SO TO SPEAK, CPFB POLICY DOESN’T PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF THE ACCT HOLDER BUT RATHER PROTECTS THE INTERESTS OF ANY CROOKED PPL
    WHO KNOW HOW TO ABUSE THEIR FLAWED POLICY.

  3. Don’t dwell on past relationship…
    Your wife died.
    Grief and move on… whatever you have spent on her while she was living and after she died is of your own duty as a husband.
    If you are capable of supporting yourself in the meantime.. take a break, clear your heart and soul.

    After that I hope our laws have souls to understand your predicament.

    1. Sometimes there lies a chance someone might push for changes to happen… if you don’t try you would not knows… perhaps not law per say, rules, regulations or guidelines. Afterall humans made them.

  4. Lucy Tan says:

    One more point to note re CPF. Your SingTel shares bought at launch don’t form part of your CPF savings. I only found out after my Mother passed away n her CPF savings went to a grandchild as nominated. Cpf wrote to say SingTel shares had gone to public trustees n I naively told public trustees to release to my Nephew. Public trustees say cannot. But can claim against funeral expenses

    I had to make two trips to get things sorted out before extracting under $500 from the SingTel shares for my nephew.

    My advice. If u have these legacy SingTel shares in your Cpf sell while you are alive or transfer to your cdp account

    1. Lucy Tan says:

      They were steeply discounted for all citizens in 1993 when singtel was listed la. Not bought from open market. Those are the singtel shares I m referring to.

      N if u didn’t buy them at the beginning when they were priced at $1.98 then u didn’t enjoy gains that other Singaporeans enjoyed

  5. Did u voted for this? Most people get what they voted for. ‍♂️ I sympathise you and all who didn’t voted for this. But if u did, u shouldn’t feel too bad. It’s after all your own decisions.

  6. I may detest the way the CPF Board restricts the withdrawal of our CPF savings and it always having the last word on distribution of CPF savings after members’ deaths, but Lim is one calculative widower who deserves no sympathy. If he made all the sacrifices and incurred all the costs of caring for his wife in his capacity as a husband, unconditionally and without expecting anything in return, kudos to him and his selflessness deserves respect.

    His wife is already dead and he inherits half of her CPF savings and 100% of all her non-CPF savings and assets. Why begrudge his parents-in-law their 50% share of their late daughter’s CPF savings? Lim’s unhappiness over his in-laws’ 50% of her CPF savings only invites doubts that he had taken care of his wife not unconditionally as a devoted spouse, but because he had expected to be rewarded with getting 100% of everything she has, both her CPF savings and all her other savings and assets.

  7. When it comes to $$$…garmen has the big SAY..! We all work for the garmen n our monies physically are theirs but subtly ours. Look look..see see only lahhh!

  8. Pearl Lye says:

    Rules r meant to b broken. Laws r man-made. Sadly tat 70% dafts likes it.
    Sad to say tat tis guy will juz b an administrator for e assets passed dwn… until proven by “law” tat he can fully own them.
    Everythin else will b govt handled! Clauses r aplenty shit!! Tats wad happened to me15yrs ago…they will cite thousand n 1 excuses n reasons…

  9. Facebook Profile photo
    Cer ML ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yeah, it seems the PTO send a “Distribution List” in their letter showing “Person Die Without A Will” to distribute according to the list. Here the deceased has a WILL which the PTO says do not apply.

    How can such document sent by the PTO do not apply, puzzle everyone now!!!

  10. Facebook Profile photo
    Cer ML ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yeah, it seems the PTO send a “Distribution List” in their letter showing “Person Die Without A Will” to distribute according to the list. Here the deceased has a WILL which the PTO says do not apply.

    How can such document sent by the PTO office do not apply, puzzle everyone now!!!

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