Who will take care of the kids if one or even both of us pass away? And, who will get the house, or the money we have in the bank? It’s important to think about these kinds of questions, and know where to get a will drawn up. Making a will in Singapore ensures that everything can be settled smoothly if anything were to happen to you or your partner. Here, some top lawyers answer our questions about will writing and how wills work here.
#1 What is a will and why do I need to write one?
A will governs the distribution of a person’s assets after they have passed on. The person making the will would be able to specify the following:
- Who he or she wants to execute his or her wishes (the executor);
- what monies/assets he or she wishes to distribute under the will;
- the recipients of the assets (the beneficiaries) after he or she passes on; and
- the manner of distribution – in other words, what percentage of his or her assets each beneficiary will be given.
Additionally, if you have minor children, you can appoint a guardian to take care of your children as part of the will.
It’s important to write a will because it is an expression of your wishes. You will be able to dictate in precise terms your wishes for the distribution of your assets. Without a will, your estate will be distributed according to the rules on intestate succession. Typically, this is to your immediate family members.
– Nithya Devi, Family Law Practitioner, Kalidass Law Corporation
#2 Why would I need a will if I intend for my estate to be distributed to my immediate family members anyway?
Your immediate family members will certainly get a portion of your estate. It is, however, the rules on intestate succession which govern who among your immediate family members will get a portion of your estate, and in what proportion.
Drafting a will accords you the freedom to decide exactly how to distribute your estate. Unless you are completely in agreement with how the intestacy laws work, it is best to write a will, and to do it early.
– Nithya Devi, Family Law Practictioner, Kalidass Law Corporation
#3 What is a Grant of Letters of Administration and when are they needed?
When a person passes away without leaving behind a will, any of the beneficiaries of his or her estate may apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration, from the Family Justice Courts, to be appointed as an administrator and subsequently manage the deceased’s estate. As an administrator, he or she would be authorised to access, manage, withdraw, sell, transfer, convert, surrender, deal with or otherwise dispose of the assets forming the estate. The administrator also holds a fiduciary duty to clear all of the deceased’s liabilities and to distribute the balance of the estate to its rightful beneficiaries in accordance with Muslim law provisions.
When a person dies leaving behind a will, the person or people named as the executors in the will are nominated to take on the role of administering the deceased’s estate. The court process in an application for a Grant of Probate, however, is simpler and easier to obtain. The powers conferred onto the executor are the same as those granted to an administrator in a Grant of Letters of Administration. It’s important to note that, in a will, you are merely nominating your candidate to administer your estate but it is the Family Justice Courts that make the appointment of your executor official, by way of a court order.
– Norhakim Md Shah, Partner, I.R.B. Law LLP
#4 Can I change my will? And, how often should it be updated?
You can change your will at any time as long as you have mental capacity. If the amendments to the will are substantial, you are encourage to write a fresh will which will revoke all of your previous wills. If the amendments are minor, you can consider writing a codicil, which will instead serve as a supplement to your original will.
Your will should be updated whenever you wish to reconsider your affairs. This is likely to be in tandem with significant developments in your personal life. Some examples of such developments are:
- If your marriage is dissolved – a marriage or remarriage will automatically revoke any existing will, a divorce will not;
- if you have a child or more children;
- upon the death of a loved one who was previously named as an executor or beneficiary to your will; and/or
- major changes to your financial situation such as receiving a substantial windfall.
Ultimately, there is no hard and fast rule on the frequency at which you should update your will. Your will should nevertheless be updated whenever your wishes change to avoid any potential dispute amongst your loved ones and beneficiaries upon your demise.
– Michelle Woodworth, Director, Quahe Woo & Palmer LLC
#5 Do I need a will even if I haven’t had kids?
If you die without having executed a will, you are said to have died intestate. In that instance, your beneficiaries and the distribution of your assets will be as stated in the Singapore Intestate Succession Act.
This means that your assets may not be inherited by your chosen beneficiaries. For example, if you have no children and intend for your parents to inherit all your assets, but you die without a will, your parents will only be entitled to 50 percent while your spouse will be entitled to the remaining 50 percent.
If you wish particular persons or charities to benefit from your estate, you should create a will specifying these beneficiaries and how the assets are to be distributed among them. You can also appoint a specific person to be the trustee of your estate and if you do not, the court will appoint your next of kin to be the administrator of your estate.
Preparing a will that lists all your major assets can also save your beneficiaries time and money procuring this information.
– Shirley Lourdes, Senior Director, Attorneys Inc LLC
#6 What’s the difference between a living will and a trust?
A trust is an arrangement set up through professional trust firms or wealth managers. It outlines how an individual’s assets are to be distributed subject to specific terms and conditions. A trust goes into effect as soon as it is created, and can be used to manage or distribute assets at any time before or after death. Conversely, a will can only take effect after your death.
– Sarah-Mae Thomas, Managing Director, Sarah-Mae Thomas LLC
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed; accordingly, it should not be relied upon, as each case is fact-specific.
For more helpful tips, head to our Living in Singapore section.