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Making a will: 5 things you need to know

Ravinder Kapur

Many Singaporeans shy away from making a will. But this is an essential task that should not be put off by those who own property or other assets. Although one of the primary purposes of a will is to specify how your wealth will be distributed after your death, this legal document can serve several other functions.

If you have young children, you can appoint a guardian to look after them till they become adults. You can also appoint an executor to distribute your assets. Distribution of assets, according to the instructions given in a will can be a complicated process and an executor can simplify matters. This is especially helpful if you have elderly parents who you intend to leave a share of your assets to.


The primary purpose of making a will

The Wills Act governs the manner in which wills can be made and the functions that they can perform in Singapore. To be legally valid, a will should satisfy certain criteria.

  • It must be made in writing.
  • The document must be signed by the person making the will. The testator must be at least 21 years old.
  • It is essential that the document is witnessed by two people. The witnesses cannot be the beneficiaries of the will.

This document can assume special significance if there is any ambiguity about how your wealth is to be distributed after your death. There can be times when children and other relatives may dispute how property or money is to be shared. A correctly made will can prevent a disagreement from arising and save thousands of dollars in legal costs.


Is it necessary to use a lawyer to make a will?

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Any individual can make a valid will. It is not necessary to engage a lawyer for this purpose. But many people do use the services of a legal firm in making their wills.

Contrary to popular belief, a will can be made for as little as a few hundred dollars. At times, this could be a very wise decision as people can make mistakes in writing their own wills.

It is a common practice for a legal firm to use its lawyers to witness the will made by a client. This can be useful if a dispute arises regarding the document’s validity.


A will’s contents

What exactly should your will include? Firstly, it should list all your assets as well as your liabilities. It is also necessary for you to describe how you want your liabilities to be paid.

You must name the beneficiaries and specify the amounts that each is to receive. You should also name your executor. This person will ensure that your instructions are carried out exactly as specified by you.

There could be a situation where one of your beneficiaries dies before you. You need not change your will because of this. It is sufficient to include a residuary clause that describes how these assets will be distributed.

There are some assets that you cannot distribute by leaving instructions in your will. The money in your Central Provident Fund account can only be left to your beneficiaries through the CPF Nomination Scheme. This facility allows you to direct that your CPF funds be given to your nominees in cash or by direct transfer to their CPF accounts.

A will cannot be used to leave behind to a beneficiary, your share held in a joint tenancy property. Upon your death, the property will pass on to the surviving owner. Similarly, money in a joint savings account cannot be bequeathed in a will.


The Wills Registry

The Wills Registry is a government institution that allows you to deposit information regarding your will so that your relatives can obtain details at a later date. Remember that your will is not handed over to the Wills Registry. This institution only keeps the following information.

  • Details about the person making the will.
  • The date of the will.
  • The person who drew up the will.
  • Where the will is held.

Providing details to the Wills Registry is not compulsory. Additionally, the information that you furnish to the Wills Registry is not in the public domain. Only certain persons are allowed to access the details that you furnish. These include your next-of-kin and your lawyers.

The Wills Registry maintains records of an individual’s will for a period that extends up to 120 years from the date of birth of that person. All the details to this institution have to be submitted online as it does not accept hardcopy forms.


What if you don’t make a will?

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If you don’t leave a will, your assets will be distributed according to Singapore’s intestacy laws. According to these rules, all a deceased’s person’s wealth will go to the surviving spouse. In the event that the couple has children, half the wealth will go to the spouse and the other half to the children.

The intestacy law does not provide any share to the deceased’s person’s parents. If you want to provide a share of your property or other assets to your parents, the only way you can do it is to make a will.


(By Ravinder Kapur)

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