Singapore Estate Law – Can Foreigners Inherit Landed Property?

Sunday Times is always the best source for uncommon Singapore Real Estate laws. Here’s the snippet and answer:-

My boss is a Singaporean but she lives in Malaysia as she’s married to a Malaysian. She has a few landed properties in Singapore. In the event of her death, can her children and/or husband legally own the properties if willed, as they are not Singapore citizens or permanent residents (PRs)?

Professional answer coming from KhattarWong Partners, Lim Choi Ming,

In general, only Singaporeans are allowed to own land and landed properties in Singapore.

The following descriptions of land/landed property in Singapore are classified as restricted residential property:

  1. Vacant residential land;
  2. Landed property (that is, detached house, semi-detached house, terrace house including linked house or townhouse); and
  3. Landed property in strata developments which are not approved condominium developments under the Planning Act.

Foreigners and PRs are allowed to own restricted residential properties only if they have obtained the prior approval of the Land Dealings Approval Unit (LDAU).

Your boss may will her landed property to her husband and/or children even if they are not PRs or Singaporeans. However, upon her death, a foreign beneficiary will have to obtain LDAU approval before he is eligible to legally own such landed property.

If the foreign beneficiary is not granted approval to acquire the landed property, the trustee of the estate of the deceased person will have to sell the foreign beneficiary’s share in the landed property within 10 years of the date of death of the deceased person.

If, for some reason, the trustee is unable to sell the property within the 10-year time limit, he will have to apply to LDAU for a time extension.

So if you have a landed property being passed down to you if you are a foreigner, you would have to dispose it should you decide not to reside in Singapore unless you have very special reasons that you could write to LDAU to allow you to own the house and at the same time reside in your home country.

At the very least, you could still wait and dispose your property at the right time since there’s no restriction on when you have to dispose the landed property within the 10 years timeframe.