A will helps to distribute your assets and makes the process faster and cheaper for your loved ones in case you pass away. As you may already know, legally speaking, you don’t need a lawyer to write your will. You can write your own will. However, do take note of the following common mistakes so that your last wishes can be legally respected.
1. Have 2 witnesses to your will
For the signing of your will, you need to have 2 witnesses to your will. You would think that this is a straightforward requirement, but it has happened before. In that case, the will was consequently void and the lawyer was sued successfully for professional negligence.
Take note also that the 2 witnesses must not be beneficiaries in your will. This legal requirement ensures that the witnesses do not have a direct interest in your estate and are more impartial.
2. Write a new will after marriage
Some people forget that generally, a will is revoked upon marriage. The exception is if the will contemplates the marriage. Therefore, take note that you should remember to write a new will after marriage.
3. Distributing property when property is not part of the estate
There are many ways of distributing your property. The easiest way is to distribute your entire estate by percentage.
If you wish to leave a property to specific individuals, take note that the property should not be held in joint tenancy. For property held in joint tenancy, the property goes to the other joint tenant, and does not form part of the dead person’s estate. It therefore cannot be distributed by the will. For property that is held as tenants-in-common, you can will away your share of the property.
4. Distributing CPF money and insurance policy proceeds through your will
CPF money does not form part of the estate and cannot be distributed by your will. For CPF money, you will have to make a nomination under the CPF Act.
For insurance policy proceeds, the situation is slightly more complicated. Whether your will can determine the beneficiaries for your insurance policy depends on the kind of nomination that you make for your insurance policy.
Under section 49L of the Insurance Act, you can make a trust nomination to benefit your spouse and children. When you make a trust nomination, you lose all rights to the ownership of the policy. The benefits of the policy no longer belong to you and are therefore not yours to distribute in your will.
On the other hand, you can also make a revocable nomination under section 49M of the Insurance Act. Such a nomination can be revoked, and therefore can be affected by your will.
5. Not having a residuary clause
A residuary clause is a catch-all clause that describes how to distribute the rest of the assets that you have not accounted for. This is useful in the case that you are not distributing all your assets by percentage. A residuary clause covers the rest of your property that is not specifically mentioned. Without such a clause, you risk having property that is not covered by the will distributed by intestacy laws instead of according to your wishes.
Making a will that works
To make a will that works, make sure you follow all the formalities to making your will. In addition, account for all your property and any insurance policies you have. Review your will regularly.
If in doubt, get a professional to draft your will. While there are will-writing services in the market, engaging a lawyer to draft your will means that it is backed by professional indemnity if anything goes wrong.
All the best in getting your will done!