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What you need to know about writing a will in Singapore

What you need to know about writing a will in Singapore

Last Updated on by Tree of Wealth

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In this new series, we touch on will writing as it is an important part of legacy planning that many are still unaware of. Through this, we hope to bring the awareness of will writing into your legacy planning.

Writing a will is an important part of legacy planning. Legacy planning involves drawing up a financial plan with instructions on how to distribute one’s estate after death. In common law, “estate” refers to a person’s total net worth in assets at death. Such assets are usually comprised of cash, property, entitlements and valuable possessions.

A legacy plan is also known as an estate plan. Your friendly financial planner might have offered to sit down with you to prepare it. The estate planning process is not the same as purchasing insurance coverage. However, the two complement each other. Insurance coverage and a will both serve to protect your legacy.

Why do I need a will?

A will is a legally enforceable document so that your wishes can be upheld when you die. If one dies without a will, Singapore’s intestacy laws will distribute your estate for you. This might mean that some of your loved ones won’t get to inherit anything from you.

In addition, a writing a will would help your loved ones navigate the tricky business of managing and distributing your estate after your passing. As if dealing with grief weren’t enough, imagine being entangled in administrative red tape!

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Your will can help your family and executor:

  • Avoid wasting time and money jumping through administrative hoops to take control of your assets.
  • Avoid cash flow issues as they settle your debts and funerary expenses.
  • Avoid squabbling over inheritance issues.
  • Locate all your assets and make sure they end up in the right hands.

How to get started on writing your will

You might wonder whether you would need a lawyer to draft your will. A lawyer’s expertise would be especially helpful if you are drafting a more complicated will, such as one involving overlapping conditions, overseas assets and trusts. However, for most us, a lawyer is not required in writing a will.

It only needs to fulfil these criteria to be recognised:

  1. The will must be committed in writing.
  2. Testator (writer of the will) must be at least 21 years old.
  3. Testator must be of sound mind and not under duress.
  4. The testator must sign the will in the presence of two competent witnesses, who must also sign it in turn.
  5. These two witnesses cannot be beneficiaries or spouses of beneficiaries of the will.

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How to DIY your will

You can definitely write your will on your own. These days, there are many e-platforms, which provides a template that you can fill out.

Before writing a will, you’ll need to prepare the following:

  1. List all your assets and their corresponding values.
  2. Who are your beneficiaries and who will inherit which assets?
  3. Do you have legitimate children below the age of 21? Would you like to entrust them to a testamentary guardian?
  4. Who can you trust to be the executor of your will? This person should comfortably outlive you and be physically able to carry out your wishes.
  5. Finally, gather the full legal names, NRIC and registered addresses of your executor, beneficiaries and testamentary guardian.

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Make sure to have court-approved clauses and vetted by lawyers to help you make a basic will:

  • Revocation clause to nullify any existing wills
  • Appoint up to two joint executors and one optional replacement executor
  • Appoint a testamentary guardian for legitimate children below the age of 21
  • Assign specific gifts to beneficiaries
  • Residuary estate clause to help distribute what’s left of the assets after deducting debts, taxes, and gifts, by percentage

What your will won’t cover

There are assets which cannot be distributed with a will, namely:

  • Central Provident Fund savings
  • Life insurance policy plans with nominated beneficiaries

You will need to make a CPF nomination to ensure that your CPF savings go to your intended beneficiaries. Life insurance policy plans are usually taken on for the sake of dependents and the policyholder would have had to name them when signing the document.

Contrary to what is often portrayed on TV and movies, you can’t do the following with a will:

  • Make your pet a beneficiary
  • Leave messages containing private instructions (e.g. “Help me water my plants; walk my dog”)
  • Force your executor to perform his or her duties – they have no obligation to accept the role. Hence, it is wise to consult the people you’ve shortlisted as executors beforehand.

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What to do to validate your will

When you have finished writing your will draft, you will need to print it out and sign it in the presence of two witnesses, who must sign it in turn.

To prevent your will from being invalidated, your witnesses should fulfil this criteria:

  • Be of sound mind
  • Be above 21 years old
  • Are not beneficiaries or spouses of beneficiaries of your will

Lastly, keep your will in a safe place and inform your executor(s) of the location. Only the hard copy will is enforceable and they will need it to apply for Grant of Probate.

Now that you have written a will, doesn’t it feel like a load has been lifted off your shoulders? In the next article, we’ll share when you should update your will.

The content above is for general reference only. It does not take into account the needs of any individual and does not intend to provide financial or legal advice. When in doubt or in need of assistance, seek advice from a Singapore qualified lawyer.

Making a legacy plan is not compulsory by law, but it isimportant to do it. And a very big part of drawing up a legacy plan is writing your will. To learn about the other aspects of legacy planning, click here.

Contact us below for a non-obligatory financial advisory session with our licensed Financial Advisor as well as certified Will Planner.

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