I’ve had a written will since age 18 (the minimum legal age in the States). But it wasn’t because I had a lot of assets at that age. 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, and wishing them peace and a new beginning.
Families with Unconventional Situations
When a person passes without a will, the government’s laws determines how to handle/care for that person’s death, children, and belongings. 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, family feuds, minor or special needs children, or other unusual/extraordinary circumstances, a will may be necessary even if there are few assets to distribute.
Advantages of Having a Will
By having a will, you can:
1. Appoint an executor, who will carry out your will. Note that the executor you choose should not be a beneficiary or a spouse of a beneficiary in your will. If you don’t have a will, the court will appoint someone to fulfill this role.
2. 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 of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), who will arrange a temporary caregiver.
3. State your funeral/burial/cremation preferences in a side (testamentary) letter. Many people wish to state how they want their bodies to be cared for. In the US, it’s very common for a person to put (in a side letter) his/her preferences on the funeral’s location, duration, ceremony type, and invitees, as well as who gives the eulogy. In my testamentary letter, I also included instructions on organ donation.
4. Choose the beneficiaries of your net-estate. After your estate has settled all its debts, you can choose what to do with the remainder of your assets. Note that some assets are distributed through contractual/title agreements (and cannot be distributed by your will). These include properties, bank accounts, life insurance, and CPF.
5. Set up a testamentary trust for your child(ren). If you think your child(ren) cannot handle a large sum of money, you may appoint a trustee to help manage this money for your child(ren).
As mentioned in this previous article, for simple wills, most people won’t need to engage a lawyer. And there are many online templates that you can use to help you write a simple will.
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 (intestate laws), as well as a list of items that cannot be distributed with a will, please click here.
[Note that intestate laws do not apply to Muslims who follow Syariah Law.]