One of the common realities that everyone will experience in their life is death. And when you pass on, you will leave behind your possessions and assets. Hence, writing a will becomes a necessary step in your financial planning – and it may be something you have considered before.
Why should you write a will
A will functions as an instruction to a trusted person in order to ensure the smooth transition of your assets. If you have dependants like kids or aged parents, or simply people you love and whom you want to take care of when you’re gone, a will lets you distribute your assets to them according to your wishes. You can also bequeath your assets to a charity or organisation.
Wills also legally protect your family. For instance, if you have young children, a will can appoint a guardian for them if the parents should pass away.
If you are a business owner, it becomes essential to let your executors know what to do with your business. Business is part of your assets, thus a will can help to iron out post-death complications, especially if your business is co-run with a partner.
Finally, many people overlook this, but having a will makes distribution of your assets conclusive after your death, which can protect your family from conflict and in-fighting over how to split your assets.
Writing a will: The Basics
Technically speaking, anybody can write a valid will in Singapore, not just lawyers. But not every will that gets written is valid.
In order for a will to be valid, it must satisfy the following requirements:
- It must be in writing.
- You must be at least 21.
- You must sign the will at the bottom.
- Your signature must be witnessed by at least two witnesses who are neither beneficiaries of your will nor spouses of beneficiaries. These witnesses must sign the will in front of you.
- This is not compulsory, but it’s a good idea to submit the whereabouts of your will to the government’s Will Registry, and let your executors know too.
In your will, you should include:
- a schedule of all your assets
- all your beneficiaries (or, if your beneficiaries are too young, their guardians) and how much each one is going to receive.
- your liabilities (eg. your debts)
- how you want them to be paid off using your assets before the remainder is distributed to your beneficiaries
- name of your executors and your advisors (eg. lawyers or accountants); and
- a clause that revokes previous wills.
- clause to indicate how you want the remainder of your estate to be distributed in the event that
- you won’t be able to include every single asset you own or
- some of your beneficiaries might die before you, thus leaving their share unclaimed.
Schedule of Assets: Why is it important
A schedule of assets helps because there is no point in having a will which distributes your assets if the executor of your will cannot locate all the assets that you own. This is a very real problem currently existing in Singapore. In fact, back in 2016, the Life Insurance Association (LIA) Singapore had 8,185 insurance policies which were due for payouts, but remain unclaimed. The Singapore Exchange (SGX) also reported back in 2013 that there was $68.3 million in unclaimed dividends.
The bottom line here is that a schedule of assets is an important document to accompany your will. So do not forget to prepare it while you are concurrently preparing your will. If you find it too troublesome having to pen down where all your assets are, imagine the challenges that the executor of your will is going to have when the time comes.
The Cost of Writing a Will
As long as the above requirement is satisfied, will writing can be inexpensive, or even free! There are plenty of online will generators that you can use after a little Googling.
However, if you want to be very sure your will distributes your assets the way you want it to, you might want to seek help from a professional. This is especially so if you’ve got a large estate. You don’t want to let millions fall into the wrong hands just to save a few hundred bucks.
Free will writing services
Chargeable will writing services (from $267.50)
- NTUC Income’s will writing service – Simple wills cost $267.50 to $353.10 for NTUC income policy holders, and $374.50 to $450.10 for non-policy holders.
- Other will writing services – Simple wills usually cost about $300 to $500, and witnesses are generally provided. Some of these service providers can also safekeep your will for a number of years.
- Engage a lawyer – The price really varies from lawyer to lawyer, and also depends on how the lawyer is feeling that day, how much your estate is worth and how complicated your will is (heads-up: if you’re bequeathing billions and your will is twenty pages long, the lawyer sure as heck will not be charging you only $100).
What if I die without writing a will
Your assets will be distributed according to Singapore’s laws of inter-state succession.
According to these rules, your spouse gets everything if you are married without kids. If you are married with kids, your spouse gets 50%, while your children split the other 50% equally.
The rules go on to explain what will happen in other scenarios, depending on what surviving family members you have after your death.
Here’s a look at the distributions, created by MoneyOwl:
Muslims and inheritance
Muslims, however, have are bound by a different set of laws for inheritance matters. Hence, the laws of inter-state succession does not apply to Muslims. In fact the will is only applicable to one-third of the estate, while the rest is distributed to Shariah laws.
We often advise our clients to seek professional advice when it comes to matters of inheritance. There’s multiple layers involved in understanding each aspect of asset distribution and that there are several legal implications to consider. It is all part of your personal financial eco-system that needs proper planning and strategy in order to ensure a smooth flow of assets to where and how you want it to be.
About The Author
Armen Rizal Rahman
Armen’s interest in finance and investment was sparked in 2012 when he came across articles about the sub-prime mortgage crisis and how it almost crashed the entire world economic system.
He has since extensively read on the principles of Islamic finance and Shariah investing. He has also previously operated a gold and silver investing business. He credits his background in the creative industry as allowing him to be able to digest the “boring” aspect of finance easily, and seeks to use his skills to communicate others on economic literacy.