A concise summary on why everyone should consider writing a Will for themselves and their loved ones.
Basic summary of how the Intestate Succession Act works in Singapore and why you should consider writing a Will.
The first simple steps everyone should consider when beginning their estate planning. At Bequest, we guide you through the basic process and advise on additional plans such as the Lasting Power of the Attorney to ensure someone you choose makes decisions for you if you should lose mental capacity.
We also provide further information on other documents such as the Advanced Medical Directive to ensure your estate plans are comprehensive.
An example of how the lack of a will may result in unintended circumstances
In this case, the husband, Mr Low, had two children from a previous marriage before he married Mdm Lina. During the course of the marriage, it was not disputed that the children were treated by Mr Low and Mdm Lina as though they were their own children. Mr Low passed away in 1994, and in his will he left his entire estate to his wife Mdm Lina. Mdm Lina later passed away in 2011 and although the stepchildren found a will, it was unsigned and therefore considered to be invalid, resulting in the Intestate Succession Act governing the distribution of her estate. It was found that the two children did not have biological ties to Mdm Lina and as such, would not be considered as her children as defined under the Act – and the outcome was that they were not entitled to any part of her estate and the entire estate went to Mdm Lina’s brother.
Administrator — A person, of minimum 21 years of age, who is appointed by the Courts of Singapore in the event someone dies intestate, who will assist in the administration of the estate. This person can be a beneficiary to the estate.
Beneficiary — A party mentioned in the will or in a trust as receiving certain assets or rights over assets.
Estate — A term used in law to describe a person’s property (movable and immovable), entitlements and obligations.
Executor — A person, of minimum 21 years of age, who is appointed in the will to assist in the administration of the estate. This person can be a beneficiary of the will.
Grant of Probate — The Court awards this to the executor of the estate. It gives the executor the power to act for the deceased in the handling of all affairs regarding the estate.
Guardian — The person appointed to take over parental responsibilities for children below the age of 21.
Intestate — A person who has passed away without leaving a valid will is said to have died intestate.
Letters of Administration — Similar to a grant of probate, in the case of intestacy, this will be awarded to the Court-appointed administrator.
Testate — A person who has passed away with a valid will is said to have died testate.
Testator — Person who makes a will. Female testator is called a testatrix.
Trust — A legal mechanism that allows for assets to be transferred from the original legal owner to be held and managed by a third party, known as the Trustee, for the benefit of a particular beneficiaries or group of beneficiaries as set forth in the trust deed. This is different from a “living Trust”, which is an inter vivos trust.
Trustee — The person who manages assets of the trust according to the trust deed for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
Introductory Preamble, Declaration and Revocation of all previous Wills
The Testator declares that this document is his / her last will and testament and he / she revokes all other testamentary documents made before this date.
Payment of Debts, Administrative and Final Expenses
The estate will have to settle all outstanding liabilities and debts, as well as provide for all final and administrative expenses incurred while disposing of the estate before the remaining assets are disposed of under the will.
Appointment of Executor
An Executor must be 21 years and above and can be a beneficiary of the will. Normally it is encouraged as they will tend to be more efficient in the disposal of the estate if they are beneficiaries. The will may also provide for payment to the Executor for his / her services.
An alternative or substitute Executor is often named, to be appointed should the primary Executor either turn down the appointment or if the primary Executor has predeceased the Testator.
Appointment of Guardian and Trustee
If the Testator has any beneficiaries below the age of 21, he / she will have to appoint someone 21 years and above to act as Trustee for any property bequeathed to said beneficiaries.
If the beneficiaries are also the Testator’s children, he / she would normally also appoint a Guardian for the children. The Guardian and the Trustee can be the same person or different parties.
All Beneficiaries to the will should be named. Property can be bequeathed to the beneficiaries in percentage — this is referred to as disposal by proportion. Generally each beneficiary will inherit a % of the total estate — the exact manner in which this will be determined is the job of the Executor.
Property can also be bequeathed to the beneficiaries specifically i.e. specific property (for example, this particular bank account or this piece of jewellery) can be given to particular beneficiaries — this is known as specific disposal.
Residual Estate Clause
In the event that any Beneficiary shall predecease the Testator, his / her inheritance under the will can be redistributed amongst the surviving Beneficiaries in the proportion vis-a-vis each other.
Signature and Witnesses
A valid will must have 2 witnesses who observed the testator signing the will. They do not need to know the contents of the will. The witnesses must not be a beneficiary or a spouse to a beneficiary of the will.
© Bequest Pte Ltd 2014 (Will Writing Resources)