Checklist for Drafting a Comprehensive Will in Singapore
If you are keen on making a will, there are several things that you will need to provide instructions for in your will. Whether you wish to draft your own will or have a lawyer do it for you, you should take into account the following considerations before doing so.
1. What Constitutes My Estate?
First, it is helpful to consider the kinds of property you own or have an interest in and, in addition, what their value is (even if only an estimate). These could include:
- Housing: An HDB flat, a private apartment or any other land or buildings
- Charges and mortgages: You should also take note of which property has been charged to secure a loan and what type of charge or mortgage it is
- Investments: Shares, unit trusts and bank accounts
- Liabilities: Large debts, hire-purchase or credit agreements
- Items: Furniture, antiques and jewellery
- Relevant arrangements: Life insurance policies, your business or other arrangements on what will happen to your property upon your death.
Note that the type of ownership or interest in the above property is relevant. For example, it is relevant if you are a co-owner of an HDB flat with your wife. Legally speaking, there are different kinds of ownership such as joint tenancy or tenancy in common.
In a joint tenancy, co-owners are “individually entitled to the whole property”, meaning that each co-owner owns 100% of the property. Conversely, owners of a tenancy in common hold distinct shares in the property, although the land is not divided physically.
This distinction is relevant, as a joint tenant is generally not allowed to provide for his/her interest in the property in a will. Instead, the interest in the property automatically divests to the remaining joint tenant(s) due to the right of survivorship.
If you wish to transfer your share in the property to another person(s) other than the remaining joint tenant(s), you will have to convert your joint tenancy into a tenancy-in-common by a process called severance, after which you will be able to include your share of the property in your will.
2. Who Will be My Beneficiaries and What Will They Receive?
Now that you have considered your estate that you will distribute, you must now consider who will receive your estate. They are known as beneficiaries, who may be your spouse, parents, children or even charity organisations.
There are different types of gifts that you may make in your will:
|Type of Gift||Description|
|Gifts of property||Beneficiaries who receive these gifts will have to repay any existing debts or mortgages on the gift of property.|
|Residuary gifts||Beneficiaries who receive residuary gifts will receive the remaining property after the liabilities and taxes have been paid out from your estate|
|Substitutionary gifts||In the event that a named beneficiary passes away before you, you may name another beneficiary to receive this substitutionary gift. For example, you may provide in your will that Friend A will receive your HDB flat in the event of your death. You may go on further to specify that if Friend A passes away before you do, Friend A’s wife will receive the HDB flat.|
|Joint gifts||You may distribute part of your estate to more than one beneficiary. For example, you may provide in your will that Friend A and his wife will both receive your HDB flat in equal shares|
|Trust gifts||You may also set up a trust in your will. The trustee will then hold the property according to your intentions. This may be more applicable if the circumstances of your family change drastically or you wish to safeguard your inheritance|
3. Who Will Take Care of My Children?
If there is a possibility that your children are younger than 21 years old in the year of your death, you should consider appointing a guardian(s) for them.
The appointment will typically take effect when both parents of the child are deceased. The guardian you appoint should not only be willing but also be able to act as a guardian to your child.
4. What Will Happen to My Body?
It is also possible to provide instructions for how your body is to be dealt with or for what purposes it is to be used, upon your death.
- Educational or therapeutic use: You may provide that your body is to be available for educational purposes (anatomical examination for teaching and research) or therapeutic use (such as organ transplants/donation) under the Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act.
- Burial plans and funeral arrangements: These may include your preference for burial or cremation, or where you wish your body or ashes to be buried.
Note that as estate and probate proceedings typically commence only after the funeral, these wishes should be made known to your loved ones.
5. What Will Happen to the Money in My CPF Account?
Your will cannot provide instructions for distributing money in your CPF account. Rather, you must nominate a beneficiary for your CPF account with the CPF Board.
If you fail to nominate a beneficiary, your CPF savings will be transferred to the Public Trustee’s Office, which will distribute the monies to your family members following the rules under the Intestate Succession Act or, if you are a Muslim, under the Inheritance Certificate. The recipients of the monies will be charged an administration fee by the Public Trustee’s Office.
Read our other article on making a CPF nomination in Singapore.
To find out which assets you can distribute under your will, download our free guide to will-making here:
6. Who Will be the Executors and Trustees of My Will?
A practical consideration when drafting your will is who will be the personal representatives in-charge of carrying out the instructions stated in your will. This is crucial to think about as you will want your will to be carried out properly and according to your wishes.
- Executor(s): The executor(s) is in-charge of dealing with your estate, meaning that he/she will administer and distribute the estate according to the instructions provided in the will. As you have the freedom to appoint an executor(s) in your will, you should consider who you want to appoint. This can include your spouse, friends, relatives or even lawyers and accountants, as long as you trust that they can conduct these duties properly as an executor.
- Trustee: If you intend your will to create a trust, you should also appoint a trustee to handle the trust assets. A trustee is typically the same person as the executor but you can always choose otherwise.
7. Have I Prepared Other Wills Previously?
It is important to recall any other wills that you may have prepared previously, so that you can prepare a revocation clause to nullify the other wills. This helps to minimise disputes as to the validity of the will you are presently drafting and ensure that your most up-to-date wishes are carried out.
Now that you are more familiar with the things to consider when drafting your will, you can start drafting your will. We offer a WillMaker service where you can conveniently make your own will online.
Alternatively if you need more information on what to expect when drafting a will or are looking for a lawyer to draft your will for you, feel free to get in touch with our wills lawyers.
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- Simultaneous Death: How are Assets Distributed When Family Members Die at the Same Time?
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- What happens to property when a deceased’s next-of-kin or named personal representative is uncontactable?
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