HDB inheritance rules: How they work (and what you must know)

6 min read

Family finances tend to be a give-and-take affair, which is a good thing. I suspect for four years of high school alone, I owe grandma a four-room flat’s worth in unpaid laundry bills. Where problems surface though is when it comes to HDB inheritance. There have been incidents where so-called people kick their parents or grandparents out of the house, plus a fair share of cases where sons and daughters fight over a deceased parent’s flat like kids fighting over the last slice of pound cake, only more vicious (in court that is).

So, to keep a society with an ageing population from descending into chaos, HDB has drawn up a set of inheritance rules. Here’s how it should work in reality, and how complications happen:

How are the elderly being kicked out (by their own family)?

In January 2016, the non-profit TRANS Safe Centre reported a rise in financial abuse cases of the elderly. They had 11 cases in 2015, up from just two in 2008. Another group, Care Corner Project StART, reported over 20 such cases last year.

Not all of these involve the elderly losing their homes, but many do. One of the examples given by Project StART is home-related, even if it doesn’t involve a HDB flat; Ms. Lam, a widow in her 80s, was asked to sign a document that would permit her 40 year old businessman son to rent out her house.

What she actually signed was a document agreeing to the sale of her $4 million dollar home. Given that she subsequently had to move in with her wretched son and his family of five in their two-room flat, I doubt she ever saw a dollar of the money. For the record, if you just got $4 million but insist on housing your family in the confines of a two-room flat, your name should be publicised; we all deserve to know who the worst son/businessman in the country is.

In a more HDB-relevant case, Madam Tan Teck Soon, a 76-year-old canteen vendor, is suing her granddaughters. She alleges that she paid HDB $277 per month for 26 years, for her three-room flat. But in March, she found out her granddaughters are intending to sell the flat that should be hers.

According to her granddaughters, the flat belonged to their father, Mr. Ng King Nuang, who passed away in 2009. It was then passed down to them (see below for the official laws on this), and should hence be theirs to sell.

However, Madam Tan contends that, while the flat belonged to her late son on paper, it was understood between the two of them that the flat was actually hers. She claims she had paid, in total, around $117,000 for the flat, including factors such as conservancy costs and the initial $20,000 for down payment and renovations.

Madam Tan’s legal dispute just goes to show that the system of HDB inheritance works like IKEA assembly instructions — it’s straightforward on paper, but one bad screwing is all it takes to turn everyone involved into a shouting, crying mess.

HDB inheritance rules

How HDB inheritance should work, in theory.

Unless you choose to work along Islamic inheritance laws (an option for Muslims), or have a specific will, this is how HDB inheritance works when three plates of char kway teow a week finally catch up to your arteries:

When you keel over, your HDB flat goes first to your spouse, if you are joint tenants.

There is a common misconception that the flat’s proceeds are split between your spouse and your children. This is only true if you are the sole owner (more on this below). In the instance of joint tenants, your other assets are split between your spouse and children, but not the flat.

For example, say when you pass away, your legacy is the flat, plus cash assets of $150,000. Your spouse is the co-owner of the flat, and you have one child. What would then happen is your spouse would get the flat and $75,000, while the remaining $75,000 goes to your child.

In addition, note that a joint tenant is only able to retain the flat if they are Singapore citizens or Singapore Permanent Residents, are at least 21 years old, and meet HDB’s other eligibility requirements at the time.

If you are the sole owner of the flat, then the flat proceeds gets split between your spouse and your children 

hdb inheritance rules

— the flat is sold, and everyone gets as even a share as possible (for more on the process of how the flat is sold in these circumstances, check out the HDB website.)

Things also get sticky if your flat would go to someone who already owns property. In most cases, the person receiving your flat has to choose. If they have a property of their own, they can take your flat and sell theirs, or vice versa; they usually can’t have two HDB flats.

In the event that you have no spouse or children, but your parents are still alive, the flat will go to them.

hdb inheritance rules

In the event that you have no spouse or children or living parents it just goes back to the government.

hdb inheritance rules

In reality, a mess can happen due to paperwork issues for HDB inheritance.

The above works quite well, if everything goes to plan. In reality, there are sometimes problems because of who owns the property on paper. Some families use informal arrangements, such as Madam Tan, in which they are not listed as the owner at all.

In such HDB inheritance situations, it could come down to proving who made the mortgage payments. Hopefully, there is a clear paper trail (e.g. if you pay the mortgage with your CPF for over 20 years, it should be obvious from your CPF statements). If you made the repayments out of cash stuffed in a Milo tin, well… anyone can claim that they were the ones who “really” paid for the flat, and it’s just your word versus theirs.

Also, note that no amount of balanced inheritance rules will help you out, if you decide to sell your flat, give the proceeds to your children, and move in with them. If you do that and they kick you out, you might find yourself in a rental flat for the rest of your remaining years (and that’s in the best case scenario).

I know you love and trust your children and all, but love is eternal for as long as it lasts. Don’t sell your flat and give the proceeds to your children. (Here are other reasons why you shouldn’t even put their names into the property title deed). They will get the flat or the money anyway, once you are well and truly done with it.

If you found this article useful, 99.co recommends What happens to your HDB flat in the event of a divorce or separation and Inexpensive ways you can elder proof your flat

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About Ryan Ong

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Reader Interactions


    • Esther

      Hi there!

      This is a rather interesting article.

      May i ask a question please?

      My dad sold off his hdb flat to help out my brother who was in debt and both of them spilt the proceeds of the sale. Now my brother is in the midst of getting a BTO from hdb and he offered to sell to my dad 30% of his share in this new flat in exchange for a sum of money. In this way, my dad will be able to stay with him and his family till end of time. However, this is a private arrangement between the 2 of them and my dad’s share will not be reflected in hdb paper or system.

      My question is, in the event if the flat is sold away after the minimum period, will my dad be able to get back his 30%?

      I hope someone can help me out on this question.

      • Adam R.

        Hi Esther,

        It would be difficult for your father to prove to HDB/courts that 30% of the sale of the flat belongs to him. It would be safer to have this penned down and endorsed by all parties involved in the form of a will or contract so as to ensure no disputes in the future.

        That said, when drafting the contract, it is helpful to indicate the absolute sum that is to be agreed upon by your brother and father – 30% of the sale of a HDB resale flat could be a different amount from 10-15 years later.

        Adam R.

    • John Yee

      An Informative article.
      May i ask a question please?

      I describe my case in point form:
      1. mother passed away few months ago. she has a hdb flat under her name (purchased before 30 Aug 2010 from HDB direct because her kampung house was acquired by govt.)
      2. she has children but all own hdb flats except one daughter (madam J) who don’t own hdb but pte property.
      4. all other siblings agree to transfer the hdb to madam J’s name if she so-called pays for the hdb at an price agreed between them so that they can share the proceed as with other inheritance cases. most probably at the valuation price. both J and husband are Singapore citizens so meet the hdb eligibility.

      Qn A – Can madam J inherits the hdb flat without having to sell the pte property?
      Qn B – Does J has to pay for the extra buyer ‘s stamp duty . If so how much is the extra stamp duty since this is not their first property (remember , hdb + private).

      Thank you.


      • Adam R.

        Hi John,

        Unfortunately, Madam J cannot own the HDB flat without selling her private property. Regardless of whether she inherits or purchases the flat, she cannot take possession of the HDB flat whilst owning a private property at the same time (as her 1st property purchase).

        Adam R.

    • David

      Hi Adam,

      Just to clarify further, based on the HDB FAQ Q3 @ http://askhdb.hdb.gov.sg/ifaq.aspx?topfaqs=1&n=0&category=60665 , it is indicated that the private property owner can inherit the HDB flat without the need to sell it? Does it apply in the scenario posted by John?



      • Adam R.

        Hi David,

        It really depends on the date.

        If a person (who already has a private property) and inherited a non-subsidised HDB flat that was bought on or after 30 August 2010 by its (deceased) previous owner, the person can keep only one of the properties. However, if the flat was bought BEFORE 30th August 2010, and was unsubsidised, he/she can retain both. Do note in this case, subsidised here refers to any grants, priority schemes or SERS relocation packages taken by the deceased owner in the purchase of the flat.

        That is not all though. The person who inherits the flat must also still meet the basic requirements for owning the flat eg. in terms of age, citizenship status and family nucleus. HDB has outlined this clearly under the different eligibility schemes here: http://www.hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/residential/buying-a-flat/new/hdb-flat. If he/she does not, then the flat will still be re-possessed by HDB.

        Adam R.

        • Amanda

          I have recently been diagnosed with some medical issues. I have a fully paid up resale HDB I bought 6 years ago. Should I die, what happens to my flat?? My kids are only 21 and 19, I’m a single parent, so am sole owner. Are they then considered a ‘family nucleus together’? or no? If not, then what happens when HDB takes back the flat? I bought it at the peak, and now the value has dropped quite a fair bit. And as you are aware, old flats will continue to dip in value.. I prefer to leave them with a roof over their heads, than to get the flat repossessed, and balance CPF returned that they can’t even use.

    • Caleb

      Hi Adam,

      My mom passed away 2 years back and currently our flat is under my brother’s name who is a co-owner and I am occupier. My brother wants to sell the house and keep everything to himself. Question is can he do that? We still have a sister but she doesn’t live with us. I suggested splitting the flat amongst the 3 of us but he refused. Can he actually sell the house and kicked me out? Thank you in advance for your answer. Appreciate it


      • Adam R.

        Hi Caleb,

        Afraid that in your situation, from HDB’s point of view, your brother, because he is the co-owner of the flat, does have the authority to sell the house.

        Chances are slim, but there are avenues to appeal your case to HDB. For example, if you can prove that the majority of the payment for the flat’s mortgage has been paid by you or your sister (other than your brother), then you may have supporting proof to support your case for keeping the flat.

        Adam R.

    • Eunice

      Currently my hdb flat is joint owner between me and my father, whereas my sister as occupier. Is a Will valid if I say that in case I pass on, the flat ownership shall be my sister and my father? This is to prevent my dad for making his own decision to sell away the flat. Or is there any suggestions how to pass over my flat ownership to my sister only if I’m not around?

    • Hi,
      Have a question…..as a widow and been the main occupier of my daughter Hdb FLAT….recently, my late brother died and I inherited his 3 room FLAT because he lost his wife few years ago with no children. I am his only blood sibling .
      Am I entitled to his flat….while been the main occupier of my daughter HDB FLAT ???


    • Sue

      Ryan, your humour made me read the whole article…so thanks 🙂 Btw, can you guys add a Like button so we can let you know that the article and comments have helped us in some form or the other. Many thanks, Sue

    • Sue

      My nephew lives with his parents and sister in a 4 room HDB flat. With the exception of him, all three have their names registered in the flat. His sister doesn’t want his name in there, so he’s worried that when his mom & dad pass she might send him packing. As I’m single, he’s asked me to register his name in my flat although he won’t be living with me as I’d rather be on my own. Since I have no one else to leave my place with when I die, I’ve been considering this as this flat holds all my mom’s memories and she would have absolutely approved of my leaving it to my nephew as they were both very close. However, I’ve heard horror stories of being taken advantage of, so I wish to know if I can bequeath my HDB flat to him in a living will instead of registering his name in the flat. If anyone can advise me on this, it will be most appreciated. Thanks.

      • Krristy Lam

        Dear Sue,

        Thanks for reading the article.

        We hear and understand your concerns. Yes, you may bequeath your HDB flat to your nephew in your Will, which can be drawn up by a lawyer, or a local will writing service provider.

        Wishing you all the best,

        PS: If you found our articles useful, do share them with your friends on any of the social media platforms!

    • Sue

      Brilliant. Many thanks for your reply, Krristy. Very much appreciated!

    • Mellow

      Hi.. I have a 5R HDB flat with my husband n have only 1 child. As we do not have any will, will our flat goes to my only child? How does this work as she also has her own HDB with her husband.

      • Krristy Lam

        Dear Mellow,

        Thanks for reading the article!

        In response to your question, let’s work on the assumption that you and your husband pass on at the same time.

        By virtue of the Intestate Succession Act, you’re right to say that the flat goes to your only child. However, as she already has her own HDB flat with her husband, she would have to sell the inherited HDB flat on the open market within a certain time frame.


    • Jon

      Hi Ryan,
      Great article!
      Just a question.
      Considering the grandparents of a flat pass away and leave it to their grandchild through their will, but he is only 25 years old. Can he inherit the flat?

    • Jon

      Hi Ryan,
      Great article!
      Just a quick question.
      Considering the owners of a HDB flat have passed away and put it in their will to leave it with their grandchild, but he’s only 25 years old. What happens to the flat? Thanks.

      • Krristy Lam

        Hi Jon,

        Thanks for reading the article. As the grandchild is below 35 years of age, the said HDB flat will have to be sold on the open market.


    • William

      Hi, currently my mum and I hold 50% share each in the HDB that is fully paid. If my mum leaves a will that states th 50% goes to my Brother who already has a HDB, what will happen? Can my Brother sell the 50% share to me? If we cannot agree on the sale value, what happens?


    • CT

      An interesting article and forum here. I have similar case to John and if I may describe my case below for your advice:
      My father passed away 2 years ago. He has a pte property that is co-owned with his brother. His brother has passed on much earlier and his spouse and children is now the co-owner of the pte property along with my deceased dad.

      1. Can we do a transfer of asset right and inherit our rightful % of the pte property without paying extra buyer stamp duty fee? Each of us own a hdb, except my sister who has not got her keys). Note: there is no intent of selling the pte property at this moment

      2. Does my auntie and her children need to be present when we do transfer of asset right to my mother and us?

      3. What are the documents/procedure requires to do asset transfer?

      Thank you.

    • Jane Ho

      At present,I am staying with my mom at my uncle’s HDB flat. I actually had the intention of adding my name as a co-owner on my uncle’s flat and also to pay-off the balance loan of my flat owing HDB using my CPF. This was being rejected by HDB reason being I do not have a direct family nuclear with my uncle.
      Under such circumstances, can my uncle draw a will saying that my mother (my uncle’s sister) will inherit
      the flat in the event on my uncle’s pass on??

    • Does HDB allows a HDB owner who is the sole owner of a flat, wills her flat to a community of religious sisters who are Singaporeans?

    • Both my parents passed away and left a will to split their 4 room HDB to all children and oldest grandson. None of us can have the flat as 3 of us already own HDB flat, 1 own private properties and 1 is below 35 years old.

      It has been almost 2 years since we started to sell the flat on the open market. Although there are viewers, it seems very difficult to sell as the flat is > 40 years, without store room and additional toilet in the master bedroom.

      I have confirmation from HDB that they no longer buy back such a flat. If we cannot sell the flat even after applying for extension to sell, what other options do we have ?

      Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • LIU

      Hi there! My mother is the sole owner (HDB flat). In her Will, can she give her flat to her Non Singaporean son-in-law after her passing ??? can her son -in -law accept the gift from her??? many thanks!!!

    • Crystal Lim

      My husband and I intend to transfer our private property to my name incurring SD and CPF repayment to him?

      Subsequently, can my husband purchase an open market resale HDB with my mother (a divorcee with no property to her name)?

      What will happen in the event that either party to the HDB pass away? Can the other party own the HDB flat under single name?

    • tan soo seng

      Hi I and my elder sister now owning a 3 rm HDB flat which my passed away mother left for us.
      we are still single and owned this property. Are we consider NOT a first timer as a buyer for future purchase of flat? Can you advise the necessary step if I would to withdrew my name from this property with a lawyer or without or any form of legal undertaking for my withdrawal?

      Once my withdrawal my sister can kick me out of the house. What can take any measure to safeguard this property of my interest? ( my reason for withdrewal is to buy a flat(NEW / Resale) on my own name.

    • Margaret Foo

      My dad and sister is joint tenancy after my mum passed on. Before that my dad had prepared a will to bequeath unto his trustee all his properties movable and immovable to sell and convert into money for the distribution to the beneficiaries. Please advise if my sister now inherit the flat and the selling of the flat stated in the will is no longer applicable.
      Thank you.

    • TCC

      Interesting article! I fall into the “no spouse or children or living parents“ category so is it possible to will my HDB to my sisters so they can sell it and take the proceeds when I’m gone?

    • Hi Adam/Krristy,

      my mother is the sole owner of HDB flat and she’s wondering if it’s possible for my youngest brother to keep the house should anything happen in the future, without splitting the inheritance to her children. All her three children have not purchase a house yet (meaning currently we are all occupiers) and we agreed to the idea. Could you kindly advice. Thank you.

      Kind Regards,

    • Alan

      I have a question. My dad and mum divorced and there was a court order with the share that is to be distributed to both parties accordingly. However, the flat was not sold yet due to MOP not met yet. However my dad passed away. Me, the son is the sole administrator and beneficiary of his assets and the schedule of assets includes my dad share of the house. So will the join tenant scheme take effect or the court order take effect?

    • Ng

      Hi, my wife dad passed on without a will. He was the sole owner of a HDB flat that are occupied by his wife and my wife youngest sister. We ourselves stay in a rental apartment. My wife agreed to be the executor of the estate. She has done some work on it and receive the letter of administration. However, she has not done the transmission. So technically there is no owner for the flat yet. Recently we decided to purchase a private property. However, am concern if her current status as administrator will be considered as one property count. If so, she will incur ABSD of 12%. Can advise?

    • nikita ng

      Hi Kristy

      My aunt is 73yrs and owned a 3-room flat and living with her sister aged 68yrs. In 2017, their nephew, aged 36 moved in with them in 2017. Uptodate, he has been a free loader, working in 7Eleven and not paying for utility bills or his own meals. Question is: as an occupier, if my aunt of 73yrs passed on, who will inherit this HDB flat when my aunt of 73yrs is without a will. What is the automode for such a case.

    • Sandilbz@yahoo.com

      Hi there,

      Understand that this is a long shot, but I find this website really helpful and was hoping someone can help me with an enquiry I have.

      I have inherited a flat from my dad who have passed away as my mum is not a local citizen and now, me and my partner is applying for a BTO.

      Am I considered first or second time applicant?

      I have approached HDB about this but the answer they gave was rather conflicting, what I got was yes I am considered as second timer since I did have my name in, but I can be considered first timer when applying for HDB grants.

      I hope someone could advise if this is right.

      Thank you!

    • Nancy Wee

      Would like to know if I do not have a will and when i passed on, my flat will go into trustee? My children will only get the proceed after the sale of flat and hdb will charge a levy of 40% of the sales price leaving only 60%to my children?

    • Thanks for the valuable information. Chance upon this article during my search for some answers. Kudos.

    • Aye Min

      Me and my wife are Singapore PR. I have one child, who is neither Singapore citizen nor Singapore PR, just a foreigner. If we both passed away, can my son own the flat? or can he sell the flat in open market?


    • Lyn


      Thank you for the great article!

      I will inherit my mum’s HDB flat. As I also have my own HDB, I will be selling my mum’s flat. Can I appoint a POA to manage the sale? My current place of residence is overseas. And I may not be able to be in Singapore physically to sign documents.

      Can I appoint a POA and get the sale proceeds to be paid into the estate account?

      With Thanks,

    • Kat


      Great knowledge there! Thank you for the info.

      Question here. Husband is 35 and has a property under his name, wife becomes an occupant in the papers, but is actively paying for mortgage and things at home.

      That being said, should he pass on, would wife have to spilt the property with his parents since she’s only an occupant.

      Also, should a nomination be done?

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