Many are of the view that wills are only necessary for the affluent. However, this is not the case. Preparing one ensures you have control over how your assets are to be distributed after your passing.
Talking about after-death issues is often considered taboo in Asian culture, with the result that many Singaporeans tend to put off or avoid writing a will. Not doing so can result in complications after one’s passing.
YOUR ESTATE COULD FALL INTO THE ‘WRONG’ HANDS
A person who has passed on without a will is considered to have died ‘intestate’, a legal term that means that the deceased has left no instructions on how they wish their estate to be divided and distributed upon death.
In this circumstance, the Intestate Succession Act (ISA) governs how property will be distributed among surviving relatives. This is fine if you are happy to have your assets distributed this way; if not, the results could turn out to be contrary to your wishes.
If you pass on without any surviving next-of-kin and do not leave a will, the government is entitled to your assets. In such an instance, however, it is also possible for people who are unrelated to you to inherit your assets if they can make an “equitable or moral claim” against your estate.
NO OPPORTUNITY TO APPOINT GUARDIANS FOR MINOR CHILDREN
If you are a parent, an important reason for writing a will is appointing a guardian to look after your children who are minors. If you choose not to appoint a testamentary guardian for these minors, you will have no control over who has custody of them after you and your spouse pass away.
In the absence of a surviving parent and appointment of testamentary guardian, anyone may apply to take on the role of guardian to your children. The court will then determine whether to grant guardianship to the applicant with foremost regard to your children’s welfare.
In the event that no one applies, any children you have under the age of 16 will be placed under the care and protection of the Ministry of Family and Social Development according to the Children & Young Persons Act. This means your child will end up in a home.
THERE IS NO NAMED EXECUTOR
When you write a will, you can choose a friend or a loved one to be the executor. This person would be responsible for distributing your assets and ensuring your beneficiaries receive what they are entitled to, in accordance with your will.
However, if a will is not written, no executor is appointed. This means someone must apply and be appointed to act as administrator of your estate. This could result in delay, legal expenses, and disputes among family members.
Other potential implications of not creating a will:
- Stepchildren, unmarried partners, and pets are not entitled to any part of your estate or a share of your assets under the ISA;
- Families may face additional administrative burdens, which add to suffering at an already difficult time; and
- Expensive legal action may be needed to resolve complications.
Preparing a will ensures you have full say over a number of important decisions concerning your assets after your passing. It can also help avoid misunderstandings and disputes over the administration of your estate.
DRAWING UP A WILL
You can write a legally binding will on your own as long as it meets certain requirements. The main ones are that it must be committed in writing and the testator must be at least 21 years of age. In addition, you need to have two or more witnesses who are not beneficiaries of the will or spouses of the beneficiaries. You may find it useful to engage a lawyer if your requirements on who should inherit your assets are complex. Another option is to make use of online will-writing services.