The importance of writing a will
There is a misconception that only the wealthy need wills. However, a will is an integral part of everyone’s lives as it is the only way to pass down one’s property and estate to whomever they so wish to. Also, not many people know exactly how to go about writing one or, even more fundamentally, what a will is about. To write a will, there are some formalities that have to be fulfilled for it to be valid.
What is necessary for a will to be valid in Singapore?
- You must be at least 21 years of age to make a will.
- The will must be in writing, either handwritten or printed.
- You must sign at the foot of the will. Alternatively, if there are special circumstances (for example, you are illiterate or you are infirm), another person, in your presence and by your direction, may sign the will.
- You must intend for your signature to give effect to the will (in other words, you cannot be under any undue influence or any form of fraud, or under the influence of drugs and alcohol).
- 2 or more witnesses must be present. Witnesses cannot be a beneficiary or a spouse of the beneficiary. Witnesses also cannot lack mental capacity.
- Each witness must acknowledge your signature by counter-signing their signature with yours in the presence of each other and you.
Can you prepare your own will?
Technically, you do not need a lawyer to write a will. Although it is not recommended, as one might make mistakes in doing, it is possible to make your will by yourself with the necessary witnesses.
Why you should engage a lawyer to draft your will
A lawyer is able to advise you on the following:
- How to bequeath your assets without the will being contested
- How to prevent future complications to the will (for example, distributing assets by expressing percentages of the various assets to be allocated to the respective beneficiaries, instead of stating specific amounts)
- Proofreading the will to ensure that all the formalities in making a will are complied with so that your assets will reach whomever they are intended for
- Provision of legal advice on the laws relating to wills and to ensure that your will is valid
When should you draft your will?
The time is now! Regardless of your marital status or age, you should make a will.
Do note that your will is automatically revoked upon marriage unless you state in your will that it was made in contemplation of your marriage. Otherwise, you should prepare a new will after your marriage. In contrast, any will that was made prior to a divorce will still remain valid unless otherwise revoked.
Separately, you may also consider changing your will when you have children so that you may include them in your list of beneficiaries.
You should also seriously and urgently consider making a will in circumstances such as old age or if you suffer from a terminal illness.
What should you include in your will?
Whether you write your own will or engage a lawyer to help you draft your will, your will should include the following:
- A list of all your assets.
- A clause to state that if you have any forms of debts, they must be fully paid off before your remaining assets are to be distributed to the beneficiaries.
- The beneficiaries (people who you are giving your assets to) and Trustees (especially for beneficiaries who are below the age of 21), and how much each beneficiary is to receive.
- An executor who will be in charge of administering the will. If the executor refuses to execute the will, the court will appoint an administrator.
- A revocation clause to revoke any and all previous wills.
- A residuary clause to name person(s) to whom you wish to distribute any property that you may own but have not specifically stated in the will, or any property which was not transferred to the intended beneficiary. Examples of how these situations may arise include failures in the above-mentioned formalities, the death of a beneficiary before the testator (the person making the will), or the testator acquires assets after the will was executed.
It is also advisable to review your will once every few years to ensure that it stays current and relevant. Basically, your will should reflect your most current intentions in the administration and distribution of your assets.
Your CPF savings cannot be distributed through a will
CPF savings cannot be included in your Will. They also do not form part of your estate and are protected from creditor claims on any outstanding debts.
You should make a CPF nomination if you want your CPF savings to be distributed according to your wishes. If you do not make a CPF nomination, your CPF savings will be transferred to the Public Trustee’s Office (PTO) for distribution to your family members under the Intestate Succession Act or the Inheritance Certificate (for Muslims). The PTO charges the beneficiaries an administration fee for the distribution of your CPF savings.
A CPF nomination provides CPF members with the option to specify who will receive their CPF savings, and how much each nominee should receive, upon their demise.
What to do with the will after it is executed?
A will is a private document and you should refrain from revealing its contents. Notwithstanding, you should make sure that its existence is known to your executor. Once the will is executed, keep a copy of it and store it in a safe place. If a lawyer drafted your will, you can ask your lawyer to keep a copy of your duly executed will for you as well.
You should also deposit information of the will to the Wills Registry (they do not actually store the will for you) as this may assist the probate process. The depositing of information regarding the will with the Wills Registry is done online and requires your SingPass to log in. Information that may be provided to the Wills Registry include:
- Details of the person making the will
- Date of the will
- Details of the person who drew up the will
- Details of where the will is held
How long does writing a will take?
If you engage a lawyer to prepare your will, the process should take approximately 1 to 2 weeks from the time you furnish your lawyer with instructions. It is also dependent on the complexity of the will.
If you are drafting a will yourself, it could easily take you a few hours or longer, depending on how comfortable and informed you are with regards to drafting a will.
How much does it cost to write a will in Singapore?
If you engage a will-writing company or a law firm to prepare your will, it will cost you about $200.00 to $400.00 for a simple will. If your will is more complex, then it could cost $500.00 and above. The cost of drafting a will is often a function of how much time it takes to prepare and the complexity of your wishes – the more time it takes to draft a will likely results in a higher cost. For example, if you wish to bequeath various assets located in different countries, or you wish to bequeath your estate to a large number of people and/or organisations, the will would naturally be more complex and require more time to prepare.
Additionally, there is a charge of $50.00 if you wish to deposit your will with the Wills Registry.
Speak with Charlene about the drafting a will
If you have any question about drafting your will, you can get a Quick Consult with Charlene or any of the lawyers with similar expertise for a transparent, flat fee of S$49. You can expect a call back within 1-2 days on the phone to get legal advice and have your questions answered.
You may be interested in these articles:
- Wills: What is the role of an executor and administrator in your will?
- Why you might consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) when making your will
- Estate planning – Creating, preserving and distributing your estate in Singapore when you pass
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.