What is a will?
A will (or testament) is a legal document expressing your wishes on how your estate is to be distributed after you die.
It will cover everything you own, whether money, property (even pets), or possessions. Your assets will then be distributed to the people or organisations you want to inherit them.
Wills are essential not only to ensure family members are provided for financially. You may wish to structure how those family members can access the money you leave them, so they do not spend it recklessly.
You can also donate to charities close to your heart, so they can continue doing the great work you admire.
Requirements of a valid will
Your will must be valid for your estate to be distributed in accordance with your wishes. So, it is crucial that your will is valid.
What makes a will valid?
- The will must be in writing.
- The person making the will must be of at least 21 years of age.
- The will must be signed by the testator.
- Two people must be present to witness the signing of the will by the testator. The witnesses must also sign the will in the presence of the testator.
- The two witnesses must not be a beneficiary under the will.
Possible consequences of an invalid will
After spending your life building your net worth, aiming to provide for your family, and leaving them financially secure after you die, would you want your estate to be distributed differently from how you planned?
It is even more important if your family dynamic is a little complex. You may have family members who might claim against your estate, who you do not wish to be a beneficiary should your will be ambiguous, or should your estate be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules (see our table later in the article).
Here are some examples of what could happen if your will is drafted incorrectly:
1. Your estate may not be distributed in accordance with your wishes. If no revocation clause is in your existing will, your previous will could still affect your estate as they are not automatically revoked.
This would be disastrous to a family with an ever-changing family dynamic. Certain people who you no longer wish to inherit part of your estate may still be entitled to do so. Do you have an ex-son-in-law or ex-daughter-in-law who is no longer part of the family and would have benefitted under your will?
If you use an unregulated ‘cheap and fast service’, you are leaving the assets you accumulated over your lifetime to chance. Give your children the comfort of one less stressful thing to deal with and let us help you write your will.
2. Your will does not meet the legal requirements. It would therefore be invalid, and your estate would be dealt with under the intestacy rules. Again, unintended beneficiaries may inherit your assets.
3. You could be open to challenge by someone who you may not want to inherit any of your assets. This will cause your loved ones a lot of stress on top of the grief they already feel.
There will be increased legal expenses in dealing with a will which is poorly drafted and/or invalid. This is because ambiguous wills may cause disputes between your beneficiaries. Your lawyer may have to distribute your estate under the intestacy rules, which is more complicated than following your wishes.
4. An incorrectly drafted will could cost your estate more money than it should. If you had received proper advice from our lawyers at the outset we may have been able to help reduce this cost.
5. Intestacy rules apply if you do not have a will. This means they will apply if your will is not valid. Look at the table below and see whether an unintended family member would inherit your estate.
Intestacy rules for non-Muslims:
|Spouse||Children and parents||Spouse receives everything|
|Spouse and children||Spouse and children in equal shares|
|Children||Spouse||Children receives everything in equal shares. Grandchildren may claim their parent’s share in equal shares if their parent is deceased|
|Spouse and parents||Children||Spouse and parents in equal shares|
|Parents||Spouse and children||Parents receive all in equal shares|
|Siblings||Spouse, children, and parents||Siblings receive in equal shares. Their children may claim their parent’s share in equal shares if they are deceased|
|Grandparents||Spouse, children, parents, siblings, and your sibling’s children||Grandparents receive in equal shares|
|Uncles and aunts||Spouse, children, parents, siblings, your sibling’s children, and grandparents||Uncles and aunts receive in equal shares|
|No survivors||All family members||Government receives everything|
Now, if you do not have any surviving family members, would you be happy with the government taking everything? If not, ensure you have a will with at least a backup beneficiary, such as your friends or a charity!
Intestacy rules for Muslims
Intestacy rules for Muslims differ, as the Intestate Succession Act does not apply to Muslims.
Instead, a deceased Muslim’s estate, which is dealt with under the intestacy rules, is governed by Muslim law and the Syariah Court.
For a Muslim who dies without a valid will in Singapore, their estate will be distributed according to the rules of Faraid. This is the Islamic law of inheritance.
Faraid fixes shares of the estate, which are allocated to specific relatives of the deceased. Who receives the assets depends on the degree of relatedness and other circumstances specific to the deceased.
The legal principles that apply to the Muslim’s estate will depend on which school of faith, or madhab, they follow, and whether they were Mally.
The distribution rules of Faraid are extensive and complex, depending on the remaining heirs.
A Muslim can bequeath up to a third of their estate to whomever they wish under their will. It is still vital for Muslims to have a will. Without it, there could still be unintended beneficiaries who will be entitled to inherit.
Why we recommend using our lawyers to write your will
Our lawyers have a foundation of experience in writing wills and helping executors with the administration of estates. We understand what questions we must ask you to provide the best advice.
There is an increasing tendency for people to use ‘cheap (or even free) and fast’ will writing services. People tend to believe they’re getting a great deal because their will is cheap and quickly drawn up.
Would you buy a house within an hour?
No, you wouldn’t. That is because you know a house could be riddled with costly repair works, problems on the title, and overall, a considerable risk. You would appreciate you could be wasting your money by buying something without the necessary legal work being undertaken.
Nor would you buy a house with a lawyer who doesn’t charge a fee. You would be concerned about using someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.
It’s the same with leaving your estate to a service that isn’t qualified, writes it within an hour, and returns it to you within a day. For the sake of saving some money now, your estate and your loved ones could be spending thousands on legal costs to rectify problems in the future. Mistakes which you could have avoided when you wrote your will!
Why the hurry?
If you are fortunate enough not to need a will within an hour or a day, why wouldn’t you take a little time to have our lawyers prepare your will? A will which matches your intentions and takes the stress away from your beneficiaries.
You would also receive bespoke advice on your estate, which will help you make the correct decisions with your will.
We are regulated by the Law Society of Singapore
That means we need to follow specific rules which protect clients. We need to look out for your best interests, provide you with the best advice, and ensure that we are competent to carry out our role.
The law is complex, ever-changing, and wide-ranging. We must continue our legal and professional development so we can provide you with the best possible service.
Can you be sure the ‘cheap and fast’ services are held to the same standard? You can’t.
One of the rules is that we must be covered by insurance. This protects you from the risk of loss suffered as a consequence of our advice. It’s security for you as a client. You do not get this level of comfort or security with the ‘cheap and fast’ services.
Our will writing fees
We offer a fixed fee for our will writing services. We also provide package deals alongside Lasting Powers of Attorney.
Basic Will + LPA $690
Call us on +65 6854 5336 should you have any questions or would like to speak with one of our experienced lawyers.