I remember it as if it were yesterday. We were 18 years old, had just graduated, and said goodbye to our school friends as we parted ways to attend different universities. Then, just 3 weeks into our school holiday, we all found ourselves in an unplanned reunion at a funeral. The deceased, Dennis, was only 18 years old, and had his life ahead of him. It was a shock to us all.
Certainties in Life
Not all of us will marry, not all of us will have children. We may never get our dream job, go on our dream holiday, or own our dream home. But there is one certainty in life, and that is death. Nothing in life is a guarantee except for that. All of us will one day pass on.
In all of human history, nobody has escaped death (with the exception of maybe Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells are still alive and used today in research). Despite this absolute terminal certainty, hardly anyone prepares for it. For most people, no matter what age, death always comes “too soon”.
Yet people will prepare for other less likely events, such as what they would do with their TOTO/4D winnings. Death is a morbid and taboo topic. But it is also a part of the natural order of things.
How the Death of My Classmate Affected Me
Dennis died without a will. He was taking a road trip and fell asleep at the wheel. I remember him to be a very quiet and shy person, and like many of us at that age, he wasn’t particularly close to his family. At his funeral, some people wondered if he had a long-distance girlfriend, whom he was trying to visit. Others wondered if he truly had wanted a Christian funeral, since he had only attended church once or twice in his life.
After his funeral, I decided to write a will. A common misconception is that you need to engage a lawyer to write a will. And that it will be very expensive. For this reason, people will put it off, often indefinitely.
Another common misconception is that once a will is written, it cannot be altered. Personally, I’ve changed my will dozens of times. If it’s a simple add-on, a codecil (supplemental will) can be used; otherwise, it might be easier to just rewrite a new one, and destroy the old one.
Requirements for a Will to be Valid
Writing a simple will is actually pretty straightforward. You could read more about it here. There are a few requirement to make a will valid. (These may not apply to Muslims, who follow Syariah Law):
- Identity. The writer must clearly identify himself/herself as the maker of the will. He/she must also identify the will as the current “last will and testament”, and revoke any prior versions.
- Age. In Singapore, you must be at least 21 years of age to make a will unless you are a soldier in active military service or a seaman at sea. (In the US, the minimum age is 18.)
- Sound Mind. You must be of sound mind (have mental capacity) and not be under duress or undue influence.
- Witness. Your will must be witnessed by two persons who are present at the same time. These witnesses cannot be beneficiaries or spouses of beneficiaries in your will.
- Signature & Date. The maker must sign and date the will.
There are dozens of will templates and online tools that can help you create one. If you are weary of writing one yourself, there are several law firms in Singapore that specialize in writing wills. A simple will costs around $100 to $200. Having a last will and testament will make you more prepared for the inevitable.
How Does Halloween Fit Into All of This?
While growing up in the US, especially among the Hispanic community, this time of year was not just a day for dressing up in costume and asking for candy. It was a day of honouring the dead, known as “Dia de los Muertos” (or day of the dead). It is not just a day for mourning, but a day to celebrate death in a way that no other culture does.
Dia de los Muertos is generally a happy celebration, not a scary haunting. It is a time to remember our departed loved ones, and take solace in the belief that one day we too will join them.
Thus, it’s also a good time to plan for that day, specifically by writing a will.
In a future article, I’ll be covering some advantages of having a will and what happens when you don’t have one.
But now, I will end this post by wishing you all a very Happy Halloween.