Contrary to widespread assumption, will-writing in Singapore is not just something that is done for the elderly or terminally ill. Every healthy adult in the state with assets to leave their loved ones should consider writing a will-writing as an essential part of estate planning. A properly written will ensure that your wealth will be smoothly handed down to your beneficiaries in the event of your passing, making things easier for your loved ones while they go through a difficult time.
But before jumping into writing your own will, you must understand how to do so correctly. Ensuring your will meets the state’s legal requirements to be enforceable is essential to avoid wasted effort. Here’s what you should know about writing a will in Singapore.
1. How To Properly Write A Will
Singapore’s Wills Act governs will-writing in the state. This legal document defines how your assets will be distributed after your passing. In the Wills Act, the testator, or the person creating the will, may pass down or dispose of their real/personal estate through this piece of document.
Deciding to write a will is only half the battle won; the other half ensures that your will meets the requirements to be deemed valid and enforceable under Singapore law.
Before a will can be considered enforceable, it must satisfy the following requirements or conditions:
- Your will must be in writing and completed within a single sitting.
- You must be at least 21 years old and of sound mind while writing.
- You must provide the full names and identification number(s) of all your beneficiaries (including your spouse and children) and any executor(s) or guardian(s) you are appointing.
- Your will must be acknowledged and signed at the bottom by yourself.
- You need at least two witnesses to acknowledge and sign the will with you. These witnesses cannot be beneficiaries or spouses of your beneficiaries, and they must sign the will in front of you.
2. What Should Be Included In A Will?
Not all assets should be included in your will. Some types of properties shouldn’t be a part of your estate plan, as they could create conflict. For example, you can’t indicate personal wishes and desires, business interests, and other property types.
However, a few key clauses and items would do you good to insert in your will. Here are some examples:
- Your personal details and information
- A revocation clause (This prevents your previously-drafted wills from having any legal bearing after your most recent will’s execution)
- Your marital status at the time of writing the will
- Name and personal information of your executor. (Lawyers are usually the executors, but you can pick anyone, as long as they’re 21 years old, of sound mind, and financially capable)
- The beneficiaries (to whom the assets will be given)
- Reserve/Backup beneficiaries if the original beneficiaries pass away
- Appointment of a maximum of 2 guardians to care for any minors.
- Name of advisor/s (Ex: lawyers and accountants)
- A residuary clause (This indicates who will inherit the remainder of your assets. That is, after your debts, funeral expenses, and inheritance taxes have been paid.)
3. What Happens When You Die Without Writing A Will?
If you die without leaving a will, your assets will be distributed based on Singapore’s Intestate Succession Act. Generally, intestacy law states that if you are survived by your:
- Spouse (no parents or children), your spouse gets 100% of your estate.
- Spouse and children (with or without parents), your spouse gets 50%, and your children split the remaining 50% equally.
- Children (no spouse), your children split 100% of your estate equally. If you have grandchildren whose parents are deceased, the grandchildren can claim their parent’s share of your estate.
- Spouse and parents (no children), your spouse gets 50%, and your parents split the remaining 50% equally.
There are more rules governing inheritance for siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, and if you have no surviving family members, your entire estate goes to the government.
4. What Are The Advantages Of Writing A Will?
As mentioned, a will is an essential part of estate planning that benefits every Singaporean citizen. Even if you’re not extremely wealthy, you should determine which of your assets will go to which family member or loved one.
A will also prevents conflict among your surviving family members. This document ensures they will receive a particular share of your assets based on what you’ve indicated. Your will’s clear-cut legal language can help avoid costly court proceedings and legal disagreements. Let’s delve deeper into the list of advantages of writing a will.
You Get To Decide What Happens To Your Assets
The main benefit of writing a will is having control over who receives what – this is especially important if you’d like to provide for those not covered under intestacy law. Or, in the event you have no surviving family members, you can choose to donate your estate to a charity instead of having it go to the government.
However, note that there are some exceptions to what your will can cover. For example, your will cannot dictate how your CPF assets are distributed upon death. For that, you will need to make a CPF nomination. Your will also cannot cover any jointly owned properties or savings accounts.
You Can Plan Ahead For Your Loved Ones
If you have young children, writing a will allows you to appoint a legal guardian for any minors (children under the age of 21) under your care. You can also set up a trust for your children to ensure their funds are well-protected till they’re old enough to make their own financial decisions.
You Expedite The Legal Process
Intestate succession generally takes longer and costs more because the courts need to sort out your assets for you, so writing a will can help expedite the legal process. And because you have clearly outlined your intentions in the will, it reduces potential conflict amongst your loved ones.
5. Common Mistakes To Avoid When Writing A Will In Singapore
Now that you understand the basics of drafting a will, you must avoid common pitfalls. Any mistakes in your will could lead to unintended misunderstandings — or even legal repercussions in worst-case scenarios when left unaddressed.
However, there’s no cause for worry. These mistakes are relatively easy to avoid, especially when you follow sound legal advice from a professional lawyer in Singapore. A will preparation lawyer can advise what to write, what assets to include, and what clauses to add.
Not Fully Understanding What Assets Can Be Distributed
Assets that can be distributed include personal property like bank accounts, stocks and shares, vehicles, and jewellery that can be dictated in your will.
However, note that if you plan to distribute property, you must be the sole owner. Properties under joint tenancy ownership will automatically go to the surviving owner.
It is also a common mistake to distribute assets not considered part of your estates, such as your CPF and insurance policy proceeds.
Not Writing A New Will After Marriage Or Divorce
Many people don’t realise that when you marry or remarry, your previous will (written when you were single) is automatically revoked, meaning it will no longer be valid. As a newlywed, you should write a new will.
A divorce, on the other hand, will not revoke a will. After divorcing your spouse, your ex-husband or wife may still be a beneficiary unless you take the initiative to change and update your will accordingly upon separation.
Not Including A Residuary Clause
Should you accidentally overlook any assets in your will-writing, the residuary clause ensures that any property unaccounted for in the will document (also known as your residuary estate) will still be distributed to your named beneficiaries.
Without the residuary clause, the Intestate Succession Act will be administered. Intestacy can become highly complicated and time-consuming if any of these properties are international.
That’s because intestacy laws may vary depending on whether the property is movable (not attached to the land, like a bank account) or immovable (attached to the land, like property). The general rule is that immovable property will be subject to the intestacy laws of the country it is located in. In contrast, the movable property will be subject to intestacy laws of the country you were residing in when you passed away, regardless of your nationality.
Not Informing Your Executor
Make sure that the executor of your will is aware of their role – and agrees to it. It will cost time and money to appoint a substitute administrator if he or she chooses not to take up the executorship.
Not Having 2 Adult Witnesses
Finally, once you have accurately drafted your will, you must sign it in the presence of the right witnesses, who must also sign in acknowledgement in front of you. Witnesses must be above 21 years old and not be beneficiaries or spouses of the beneficiaries. If so, your will may be rendered invalid.
Consult A Family Lawyer In Singapore
While it is perfectly possible to write a will on your own, having a professional lawyer check through paperwork can offer added peace of mind, especially for bigger assets. Accidentally not adhering to any of the legal requirements for will-writing could render your will invalid and unenforceable.
At Tembusu Law, our family lawyers in Singapore have extensive experience in issues related to wills, trusts, and estate planning. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you secure your loved ones’ futures. We offer a free 30-minute initial consultation to discuss legal concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions About Writing A Will In Singapore
Can I Write My Own Will In Singapore?
Yes. You don’t have to hire another person to draft your will in your stead.
What Can Make A Will Invalid In Singapore?
A will may be invalidated if it does not meet the required conditions or formalities. If the person wasn’t of sound mind or was coerced during the time of the writing, the will may also be nullified.
What Is The Cost Of Will-Writing In Singapore?
You can expect to spend between $200 and $400 to find a lawyer to help you draft your will. The costs may be higher if you have overseas assets you wish to bequeath.
Can I Make A Will Without A Lawyer?
Yes. You don’t need legal assistance to draft a will. But if you’re unsure what to include, it’s best to seek advice from a professional Singapore lawyer.
Can An Unwitnessed Will Be Valid?
No. According to the Singapore Wills Act, your will should be signed “… in the presence of 2 or more witnesses at the same time.” Failure to meet this condition may make your will invalid.