Do You Need a Will in Singapore? 7 Situations to Consider

man and woman discussing about writing a will

“I’m young, I don’t have much money, and I’m not married. Do I really need a will?”

Many of us might assume that to have a will, you need to be much older in age, have significant personal assets, or are married with children – these are some common personal circumstances that come to mind where we think it makes the most sense to write a will in Singapore.

A will is an important legal document that ensures that you have control over how your assets are to be distributed to your surviving family members and loved ones after your death. It can also prevent your estate from falling into the wrong hands, especially if you have young children or a sizeable net worth and assets.

Having said that, you do not need to be an affluent individual to write a will. Depending on a number of personal circumstances, you may soon come to realise that a will is the best way of ensuring that your wishes are honoured after your death, no matter how simple or complex your personal circumstances might be.

Writing a will also ensures peace of mind for your family members and loved ones during an already emotionally difficult time.

This article sets out examples of some situations where:

Situations Where You Might Not Need a Will

If any of the situations below apply to you, then you might not necessarily need to write a will:

1. You are agreeable to having your assets distributed in the order specified by the Intestate Succession Act

If you pass away without a will, Singapore’s rules on intestate succession will apply. These rules are set out in section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act (ISA) and govern how your assets would be distributed to your survivors.

For example, if you are survived by your spouse and do not have any children or surviving parents, then under the rules, your spouse will receive all of your assets upon your death. On the other hand, if you are survived by your spouse and children, then your spouse will get half of your assets while your children will receive the other half in equal portions. A will would therefore not be necessary if you are satisfied to have your assets distributed in these ways.

Please see our other article for more information on the rules governing the distribution of assets under the ISA.

Do note, however, that these rules do not apply to Muslims. The distribution of assets for a deceased Muslim is governed instead by Syariah inheritance law.

2. You do not have many assets to be distributed 

If you do not have many or high-value personal assets to be distributed to your loved ones, it might not be necessary for you to have a will. In this instance, the Public Trustee can step in to oversee the administration of your assets and assist with distributing them to your loved ones.

The Public Trustee is a government body that administers the estates of deceased persons valued at up to S$50,000. The Public Trustee will ensure that the deceased’s assets are distributed to the relevant beneficiaries in accordance with the provisions under the ISA.

Do note, however, that there are certain situations where the Public Trustee is unable to act. For example, this might include situations where there are outstanding debts or liabilities, conflicting claims to the estate or disputes among the beneficiaries or where there are pending lawsuits involving the deceased.

For more information, please refer to our other article on the administration of estates by the Public Trustee

Nevertheless, if you still wish to have your assets distributed in a certain manner (that differs from the rules set out under the ISA) and to certain individuals – especially if they are not your spouse or other immediate family members – then it is best for you to prepare a will to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

3. You are going to get married soon

If you are going to get married soon, then you might not need to write a will yet, as any will that you had prepared while you were single will be revoked – or cancelled – upon your marriage. You would then need to write a new will for the distribution of your assets after you are married if you intend to distribute them in a manner that is different from the rules set out under the ISA.

That said, even if you are going to get married soon, you might still want to proceed with making a will if you insist on having your assets distributed in a certain manner (such as to your unmarried partner) should you unfortunately pass away before you can solemnise your marriage.

You might need to make a will in Singapore if any of the situations described below apply to your personal circumstances:

1. You want your assets to be distributed in a specific manner after your passing 

As mentioned above, the ISA sets out specific rules for the distribution of assets to your surviving family members and loved ones upon your death if you pass away without a will. For example, if you are married but have no children and your parents are deceased, on your passing, your surviving spouse will be entitled to your entire estate and all your assets under the ISA upon your death.

However, if you wish to have your assets distributed in a manner that differs from the rules under the ISA, it is best for you to write a will so that your wishes are expressly stated.

Following the example above, if you wish to have a close friend inherit a portion of your estate, then you should include your friend in your will. This way, they will be able to make a claim on your estate, rather than it going entirely to your surviving spouse (which would be the case under the ISA).

You may also wish to distribute a portion of your estate to a charitable organisation that you support. This wish can be included in your will to ensure clarity over the distribution of your assets to beneficiaries apart from your family or loved ones.

Writing a will thus ensures that you have control over how, and to whom, your assets are distributed after your death.

2. You want to decide who should take charge of your assets after your passing

When it comes to the distribution of your assets – especially if you have a significant number of personal assets, or assets that are especially high in value – you would want to entrust your estate in the care of a trusted individual to distribute your assets in accordance with your wishes.

By writing a will, you can appoint a friend or loved one to be your personal representative. He/she will then serve as the executor of your will. On your passing, your estate will be entrusted to the care of the executor named in your will. Your executor will then be responsible for distributing your assets and ensuring that your beneficiaries receive what they are entitled to, in accordance with your will.

However, if you do not have a will, you would not be able to have a say in determining who can be your executor. In this case, the courts would appoint a personal representative to act as the administrator of your estate, which could include any surviving family members or loved ones.

For more information, please see our other article on the role of an executor.

3. You are unmarried but cohabitating with a partner, have pets, or a blended family

If you:

  • Are currently unmarried but are cohabiting with a partner;
  • Have pets; or
  • Have a blended family (e.g., you are remarried and have stepchildren in your current marriage),

it is important that you write a will for the distribution of your assets.

Unmarried partners, pets and stepchildren are currently not entitled to any part of your estate or a share of your assets under the ISA. Hence, if you wish to leave behind or distribute assets to your unmarried partner or stepchildren, they will need to be explicitly provided for in your will.

Pets are also not covered under the ISA as legally speaking, they are considered personal property. This means that while you cannot leave any money directly to your pet, you can ensure that your pets are provided for after your death by, for example, identifying a trusted individual who is to care for your pets.

You can do so by including a clause in your will that would clearly indicate to whom you are bequeathing your pet. You can also indicate how much money you wish to set aside to your pet’s caretaker for the care and maintenance of your pet during its lifetime.

4. You have divorced and are remarrying

Do note that if you are getting divorced, any existing will that you might have written during your marriage will not be automatically revoked. You will need to revoke such a will as your ex-spouse will still be entitled to any assets that you have left to him/her under that will.

In addition, if you are remarrying, you may want to write a new will for the distribution of your assets to your new spouse and/or children if you have any with your new spouse. You may also wish to include a provision to distribute a portion of your assets to your children from your previous marriage, if any, as well as any stepchildren in your current marriage.

There are a number of situations where it is usually advisable for you to write a will in Singapore. Even if your personal circumstances are such where you may decide that you do not need a will at the moment, it is nevertheless highly recommended that you seek legal advice about writing a will as your circumstances may change in the future.

Writing a will allows you to have full control over a number of important decisions concerning your personal assets and the distribution of your estate after you have passed away. Importantly, leaving a will also helps minimise the possibility of any misunderstandings or disputes arising amongst your family members and loved ones over the administration of your estate. In short, it is the best way of keeping your loved ones’ best interests at heart and ensuring they are provided for after your passing.

Ultimately, regardless of whether you have significant assets or not, writing a will is always advisable to ensure clarity and peace of mind for your family and loved ones after your passing.

If you need further advice on whether you should write a will or require assistance with writing your will in Singapore, please contact me. I have over 14 years’ experience as a lawyer overseeing a broad range of practice areas. In my estate law practice, I have advised clients on a range of matters including probate, will writing, the making of a lasting power of attorney and deputyship.

My clients know me for delivering effective solutions to their legal problems with empathy and patience. For more information, you can view my profile and contact me here.