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VGI v VGJ [2020] SGHCF 5

Outcome: Appeal dismissed.  


1            The Plaintiff had lodged a caveat against any grant of probate in respect of a deceased person’s estate. The Defendant sought a grant of probate based on a will. The Plaintiff issued a writ seeking a declaration that the will is invalid, and the deceased had died without a will. The Defendant applied for security of costs, which was allowed by the Assistant Registrar. The Plaintiff appealed against the Assistant Registrar’s decision to order security of costs against him.

2            The Plaintiff argued that he is not the “Plaintiff” responsible for starting the related contentious probate proceeding as he is merely a caveator and submitted that the Defendant, by having the burden to prove that the Will is valid, is substantively in the position of the “Plaintiff”.

Court’s Decision:

3            According to r 855 of the Family Justice Rules 2014, where a caveator insists that the applicant proves the will in solemn form and wishes to cross-examine the witnesses, he will not be liable for costs. Beyond this, if a caveator is not satisfied and still challenges the will, he becomes the “mover” who is responsible for starting the contentious probate proceedings: at [9].

4            A caveat is a notice to the court not to proceed with the grant of probate until the caveat is addressed. Whether a person who begins involvement as a caveator is in the position of the plaintiff depends on what the substantive effect of his acts are and not merely the fact that he had lodged a caveat earlier: at [10].

5            Where the Plaintiff commences the contentious proceedings, he is the plaintiff for the purposes of r 459 of the Family Justice Rules 2014. As the Plaintiff is a foreigner and an order for security for costs will not stifle his ability to pursue the claim, the circumstances would lean in favour of ordering security for costs: at [13].

The full text of the decision can be found here.

This summary is provided to assist the public to have a better understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s judgment.

Subject Matters: Probate

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