Writing a Will
What is a Will?
A person (‘Testator’) makes a Will to provide for the administration and distribution of his estate among his Beneficiaries upon his death.
What happens if I pass away without a Will?
Person(s), usually a next-of-kin have to volunteer as Administrator(s). They may not be the ones of your choice or conflict may happen between 2 persons coming out to be Administrators.
Administrator(s) have to apply to Court for “Letters of Administration” and once approved, your estate will be distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act (Chapter 146).
If there are Beneficiaries whom are minors (persons under the age of 21 years), a Trustee(s), who may not be of your choice, will be appointed by court, usually the guardian(s) of the minor.
If you die without making a Will, your estate may be distributed to persons to whom you do not intend to give to or not in the share you wish to. There can be no provision for giving to friends/relatives or charities.
What happens if I pass away with a Will?
Your Will takes effect upon your death. Your appointed Executors will apply to Court for a Grant of Probate. The Court will only issue the Grant after it is satisfied that all procedural requirements are met. It can be faster today, as estate duty has been abolished.
Once the Grant of Probate is issued, your Will becomes public document. The Court retains the original Will. The Executors will then have authority and responsibility of your estate and of administering and distributing the estate according to the instructions in your Will.
If there are beneficiaries who are minors (persons under the age of 21 years) named in your Will, your appointed Executors/Trustees who will be authorized and responsible for administering the inheritance assets to invest or use any money for the benefit of the minors.
Who can make a Will? What are the requirements?
Anyone who is above 21 years old, of sound mind and not an undischarged bankrupt can make a Will and change it at any time during their life. If you are below 21 years old, you can still make a Will if you are in active military service or a seafaring mariner.
The Will must be in writing. Two witnesses of sound mind above the age of 21 and yourself must sign the Will in the presence of one another (your Beneficiaries and their respective spouses should not be witnesses). The witnesses are merely present to attest your signature and need not know the contents of your Will.
What are the benefits of having a Will?
With a Will, you have total freedom to decide specifics of who and how you want to give your assets to. For example, how to divide your single house among beneficiaries to avoid confusion and conflict between them. Or to give a painting to someone who has a particular liking for it.
Instead of person(s) volunteering to be Administrators, you can state who you trust to be the Executors will be. Grant of Probate may be faster than Letters of Administration. The Administrators may have to provide two guarantors unless the Court approves not to having such guarantors.
A Will can be used for other issues like appointing guardians for your young children, specific funeral arrangements or to provide for a handicapped next-of-kin.
What should I include in my Will?
In your Will, you will state the person(s) or organisation(s) (‘Beneficiaries’) to whom you wish to give away your property and assets. You may give to your family members, friends and to charitable and religious organisations. You can even will your property to persons who are not born when you signed your Will, say your grandchildren.
You should make reasonable provisions in your Will for your wife and dependents. You should name the Executors will be responsible for the administration and distribution of your estate. If you have children who are Minors, state who you wish the two Trustees/guardians to be.
All your properties, house, car, shares (public traded or private business), insurance policies, money in banks, cash, jewellery and overseas assets which you own at the time of your death can be distributed under a Will except:
- properties which are held under a “joint-tenancy” with other persons.
- monies in your Central Provident Fund (CPF) Account. Refer to below.
- properties which you are holding as trustee.
- insurance policies with valid nominations. Refer to below.
Other items in the Will include
- whom do you trust to make the executors of your will;
- whether you wish for any special funeral arrangements;
- any special instructions you wish to leave your next-of-kin;
- any provisions for debt
What happens to my money in Central Provident Fund (‘CPF’)?
If you have made a valid nomination in the prescribed form as provided by the CPF Board, under the CPF Act, your nominee shall be entitled to the funds in your CPF account upon your demise regardless of what is stated in your Will. If you have not made a nomination, CPF funds will be distributed by the Public Trustee in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act.
If you marry after making a nomination, your pre-marriage nomination is automatically nullified, unless you state that it was made in contemplation of marriage. Therefore, you ought to consider making a new nomination after marrying.
This does not include CPF money used to purchase property or shares. These will be distributed under your Will.
What happens to payouts from my Insurance Policies?
If you have nominated your legally next-of-kin(s) as your beneficiaries, you have created a statutory trust in favour of them under Section 73 of the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act. If this is the case, your Will cannot override this nomination. Nominations under Section 49 of Insurance Nomination Act will also stand.
Without a nomination, payouts go to your estate and you can set instructions in your Will to distribute them.
Is my Will valid forever once I have executed it? Can I change or cancel my Will?
Your Will is valid forever until these events occur.
- when you marry or remarry, your Will becomes invalid, unless the Will was made in contemplation of your marriage
- when you change your name
- when you write a new Will, the old one will be revoked and the new one valid. You can ensure that the old will is destroyed by physically tearing it
Do not attempt to change your Will by crossing out parts of your Will or adding words in or attaching anything to it. If you do so, your Will may become ineffective or invalid. You should either make a fresh Will or to include more writings, prepare a Supplemental Will (“a Codicil”).
Should I review my Will?
You should make a new Will if you marry or remarry or when you change your name.
You should review your Will when you change your mind. For example, after a divorce, the Will is still valid, but you might wish to change it.
Additionally, you should review your Will if any of the following happens:
- anyone mentioned in the Will changes his name;
- an Executor or Trustee dies or becomes incapable of carrying out his duties and no substitutes named;
- a Beneficiary dies;
- you dispose of assets that are set out in the Will or gain new significant assets
- when you subsequently have more children or grandchildren
What are the benefits of consulting a Lawyer/Professional?
Although you may write your own Will, it is in your interest to consult a lawyer/professional who can advise you and draft your Will for you according to law because the risk is that home-made Will may be ineffective (unclear in certain issues) or invalid.
Lawyers/professionals will be able to assist you clarify your thoughts and ensure that your wishes are expressed in a manner that is clear to reduce the possibility of your will being challenged after your death. They will also advise you on other aspects, such as naming a substitute for Executor. This is especially so if you have significant assets. Seeking expert expertise will also give you peace of mind.
How much will it cost to engage a professional to prepare my Will?
You can ask for an estimate of the costs involved before deciding. A simple Will can cost as little as $290. However what is more important is that the Will is not a hasty piece of work. Good news is, reviewing of your Will with a professional Will company cost less than a lawyer because lawyer charges by the hour.
Making Known Your Will.
Although a Will is a private document, it is important that your loved ones and especially your Executors know that you have a Will and where it is kept. If you wish, you can store it with lawyers, professional companies or safe deposit boxes and give your executors the contact details. You may also register your Will at the Will Registry for free. www.ipto.gov.sg.
How does this apply to Muslims?
Many rules do not apply to a Muslim. Under the Administration of Muslim Law Act, the beneficiaries must apply to the Syariah Court for an Inheritance Certificate to establish the share of each beneficiary. Muslims can only give away 1/3 of their estate to persons not specified in the Inheritance Certificate. A Muslim should therefore consult a lawyer who is proficient in Muslim or Syariah Law to seek advice on making a Will.
If you have a query about writing a Will, feel free to email me at email@example.com or text me at 9675 7334
Administrators – person(s) responsible for distributing your estate in accordance to Intestate Succession Act (Chapter 146), after a Letter of Administration has been issued.
Executors – person(s) responsible for applying to the Court for the Grant of Probate. Once the Probate is granted, Executor will be authorised to call in your assets and distribute them according to your Will.
Trustee – a person who has the power to hold the estate of the deceased on the death of the deceased. Or person(s), usually the guardian, who you appoint to hold the assets for beneficiaries below 21 years old until they reach the age of 21 years old.
The Grant of Probate – gives authority to the Will and the Executor.
Testator – person whos writes the Will.
Beneficiaries – person(s) who inherit or benefit under the Will.
Can the Executor and Trustee be the same person? Yes
Can the Executor/Trustee also be the beneficiary? Yes.
Joint-tenancy – special legal term to mean that where the property is held by 2 or more persons, upon the death of one person, ownership of the property will automatically vest in the surviving owners.