Writing a will is an integral part of estate planning. It can help you to distribute your assets according to your wishes, such as passing your estate on to your loved ones upon your death. Under the Wills Act, a will devises, bequeaths or disposes of one’s real estate and personal estate. Without a will, the State can distribute one’s property according to the Intestate Succession Act. This guide will clarify the different will-writing services available in Singapore.
Making a will with a lawyer
People most commonly engage a lawyer to make one’s will. This has several benefits, including professional advice on the distribution of your assets (e.g. tax savings), ensuring clarity of the will , avoiding mistakes during the drafting procedure and reducing the likelihood of your will being contested. Engaging a lawyer will incur a fee. A range of fees are charged according to the type and complexity of the will. For example, mutual wills are less straightforward than a simple will as the former are identical wills made by two people, such as husband and wife. Alternatively, some wills comprise a larger number of clauses than others.
It is also important to bear in mind that engaging a lawyer’s services to make a will involves professional liability. This means that legal action can be taken against a lawyer where there was negligence or malpractice involved in drafting the will. A lawyer has to have insurance coverage when he practices. This does not apply in the case of non-lawyer will services.
An additional benefit of engaging a lawyer for will-writing services is the ability to make the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) at the same time. This is because lawyers are able to act as the certificate issuer of the LPA, a legal document that allows one to voluntarily appoint one or more persons to make decisions and act on his behalf in the event of a loss of mental capacity. The LPA complements the will because, while the will operates after one’s death, the LPA operates after one loses his mental capacity. It is therefore common for people to make both the will and LPA.
Making a will with non-lawyer services
Apart from lawyers, there are also other will-writing services available today. For example, service providers such as NTUC Income and select insurance companies offer assistance in the will-writing procedure. The convenience is that your insurance agents can discuss them as part of a financial plan. However, these services are not allowed to give professional legal advice.
Wills can also be made via non-lawyer services found online such as Simplywills.com.sg and Willsonline.com.sg. They are specialised and marketed well. As mentioned, the main difference is in professional expertise and liability. You have to evaluate them like you do any other business.
It is a common notion that non-lawyer services may be priced lower than lawyer services. However, given the competitive legal market now, it is possible to engage a lawyer to write a will for approximately the same price as other will-writing services.
Making a will yourself
It is also possible to write your own will. Further guidance can be sought from introductory courses such as will-writing seminars, which are also organised by service providers and estate planning firms like NTUC Income and Bequest respectively.
What happens after making the will?
After you have written your will, it is important to ensure that, over time, it remains aligned with your current interests. Interests may change due to many reasons, such as a change in close relationships or a death of a named beneficiary. While simple, minor alterations to your will may be made by a codicil, more complicated and radical amendments are best reflected by making a new will. These can also be done by yourself, but are advised to be done by a lawyer to ensure clarity and legitimacy of the will.
Making a will is not the end of the procedure. It is important to choose the executor(s) of your will, who will be administering and distributing your estate. While executors can be sourced from your personal connections, professional executors are also available from law firms at a fee. A Grant of Probate is relevant in this regard as it provides the necessary authorization for the executor to perform his duties according to the will. Lawyers can advise on the procedure of applying for the Grant of Probate.