Because I’ve had a written will since I turned 18 (minimum legal age in the US), a lot of people assumed that I was rich because their understanding is that only people with a lot of assets would need to draft a will. But a will does so much more than distribute your assets. My purpose for having a will at that age was to make sure that all the members of my broken family, particularly my mother and my father who still to this day are not on speaking terms, could attend my funeral. I also had a message in my will for each of my family members asking them for forgiveness, peace, and a new beginning.
When a person passes without a will, the government determines how your death, children, and belongings are to be cared for or handled. This might be sufficient for perhaps a conventional, nuclear family with no minor or special needs children, but for many families with out-of-the-box situations, blended family members, schisms, minor or special needs children, or other unusual or extraordinary circumstances, a will may be necessary even if there are few assets to distribute.
What are advantages of having a will?
- You can appoint your own executor who will carry out your will. Note that the executor you choose should not be a beneficiary or be married to a beneficiary of your will. If you don’t have a will, the court will appoint someone to carry out this duty.
- You can appoint testamentary guardians for your child(ren). If there are no surviving caretakers for your child(ren), someone may apply to the Singapore courts to be a guardian, or your child(ren) may be placed under the care and protection of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), who will arrange a temporary caregiver.
- You can jot down your burial/cremation preferences in a side (testamentary) letter. Although this part is non-binding, many people wish to state how they want their bodies to be cared for. In the US, it is very common to put preferences on funeral location, and the duration, type, and size of the ceremony, as well as who gives the eulogy. In my testamentary letter, I also included instructions on organ donation.
- You can choose your own beneficiaries of your net-estate. Note that some assets are distributed through contractual and title agreements (such as properties, bank accounts, life insurance, CPF, etc.) and cannot be distributed by your will.
- You can set up a testamentary trust for your child(ren). If you think your child(ren) cannot handle a large sum of money, a trustee may be appointed to help manage your money for your child(ren).
As I mentioned in a previous post, for simple wills you don’t need to engage an attorney to write one. And there are many online templates you can use that will help you get started.
For a free seminar on the basics of wills and trusts, please visit Will & Legacy Pte Ltd.
For a summary of the rules of distribution as well as a list of items that cannot be distributed with a will, click here.
(Note that intestate laws do not apply to Muslims who follow Sharia Law.)