Life is made up of the countless choices that we make – from small decisions about what to eat for lunch, to big decisions that can change your life forever. That is simply the beauty of being human and being able to create the life you want to live.

What about choosing what happens after our lifetime? Don’t we want a say in what happens to the people and things we’ve inadvertently left behind? While many people may hesitate to confront the morbid topic of their mortality, it would certainly be more useful to confront reality and revel in the chance to decide and control what happens upon your death – through writing a will.

In the absence of a valid will expressing your last wishes, you relinquish your control to the government – the state’s intestacy rules will determine how your estate will be distributed to your survivors. Not only may this be at odds with your true intentions, it may also lead to unhappiness among your family members should they disagree with the way your assets have been distributed. All these can be easily prevented by taking time to contemplate and record your last wishes in a will.

Do you know what assets you own?

Through interacting with our clients, an interesting fact emerges – most people are not completely apprised of all the assets that they own (this can include assets that may come into their ownership after their deaths, such as insurance payouts). When deciding what to do with your assets after you pass on, you will first need to find out what assets you own. This can be a disorienting process especially if you are unsure of where to look and which areas to consider, and an estate planner can be helpful in guiding you in this aspect.

Real Estate Property:
Joint Tenacy or Tenacy in common

One of the most common assets that is distributed through a will is immovable (real estate) property, including personal property held in your own name. A key consideration is whether you own such property under joint tenancy or tenancy in common.

If you hold the property as a tenant in common, you can will your separate and distinct share in the property to someone else. However, if you hold the property as a joint tenant, your interest in the property will automatically go to the other joint tenants upon your death – this cannot be amended or transferred to other people by way of a will.

Other Assets to consider

Other assets that you own and wish to distribute in your will may include investments in your personal name, bank accounts, cash, and any other personal possessions you may have. You may also wish to provide instructions regarding any insurance policy payouts (without nominations) that can be claimed upon your death.

Assets that cannot be distributed by way of a will

As mentioned earlier, you cannot will your interest in property that is held under joint tenancy to other people, as your interest will automatically be transferred to the other joint tenants. Similarly, certain assets cannot be distributed by way of a will, including investments that are held jointly, certain kinds of joint bank accounts, insurance policies with nominations, and certain CPF assets which require you to nominate a beneficiary with a CPF board.

What else should you consider when creating a will?

Settling Debts

Using the information discussed earlier, you should be able to draw up a list of all your notable assets that you intend to distribute in your will. Other than a list of your assets, you should also have a list of all your debts and liabilities so that you have a better idea of what will be left of your estate after all of these liabilities are paid and settled  – such remaining assets will then be allowed to be distributed under the will.

Key Parties

Using the information discussed earlier, you should be able to draw up a list of all your notable assets that you intend to distribute in your will. Other than a list of your assets, you should also have a list of all your debts and liabilities so that you have a better idea of what will be left of your estate after all of these liabilities are paid and settled  – such remaining assets will then be allowed to be distributed under the will.

Beneficiaries

Next, you will want to think about who you wish to distribute your assets to – these individuals will be the beneficiaries of your will. You will need to assign the portion of assets that you intend for each beneficiary to receive, as well as any directions or powers conferred upon such beneficiaries when receiving your assets.

Guardians

Where a minor child is named a beneficiary  (below the age of 21) in your will, you may also wish to appoint a testamentary guardian who will be able to make decisions involving the welfare of the child (including managing the child’s inheritance) until the child reaches 21 years of age.

Executor

You will also need to appoint an executor who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will after your death – you can appoint up to a maximum of 4 executors. Your executor(s) should be someone you trust to make sure that your last wishes are being fulfilled.

Updating your will

You may want to make changes to your original will in certain situations, such as when there is an addition of new members into the family or after a divorce. You will need to exercise care when making amendments to your original will to ensure that it does not invalidate the entire will or raise future questions regarding the validity of the will – for this reason, it will be prudent to engage the assistance of a wills lawyer to make any such amendments to your will.

If you have previously written a will, the older will(s) will be revoked by your new will. Your will may also be revoked in certain circumstances such as marriage. If a new will is drafted, the previous will should be destroyed to prevent confusion.

Keeping your will

After your will is created, it is important to store it in a safe place as your executor(s) will be required to submit your original will to the courts after your death to obtain a court order which gives them the authority to carry out the instructions in your will. You should let your executor(s) know where the latest will is kept so they know where to retrieve it.

Trust Tech provides a Will Custodian service, where you can provide your will to us for safekeeping. For more information on our Will Custodian service, please click here.

How can you go about writing a will?

Preparing your own will or Engage a lawyer?

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to engage a lawyer to write a will. In fact, there are a number of Do-It-Yourself online will programs that you can utilise to write your own will. Nevertheless, these DIY tools typically cover only basic needs to create a generic will that may not address all of your concerns. If this is your first time writing a will, it can be a real challenge to identify and address all the issues surrounding will planning and ensuring that your will has all the necessary legal elements to be valid under the law.

Given the importance of a will in conveying your last wishes, having experienced professionals to guide you through the will writing process and advise you in areas which you do not understand will ensure that you are able to draft a valid will that accurately and comprehensively addresses your estate planning needs and reduce the possibility of the will being contested in the future. Engaging a law firm to draft your will means that you have recourse against your lawyer in the event that the will is drafted negligently – the downside, however, is that you will likely incur a heftier fee for the professional legal services.

Can you have the best of both worlds?

At Trust Tech, we aim to give our clients the best of both worlds – affordable and quality wills.

By utilising technology to automate the will writing process, we have developed our own online will writing platform that allows us to lower the cost of providing our will writing services – as such, our will writing services are priced at one of the most competitive rates in the market. Our rates can be found here.

Our online will writing platform differs from the other basic DIY online will writing platforms in the market. We recognise that will writing is not a one size fits all endeavour and our online will software is designed to comprehensively cover all your estate planning needs. Given this, Trust Tech works with a team of trusted estate planners to guide and advise our clients in the will writing process at no additional cost.  The estate planners that we work with have been trained to use our comprehensive online will writing software and will be able to assist our clients in generating a will through our software.

Trust Tech also works with legal professionals to ensure the quality of our will writing services. Our in-house lawyers review our clients’ will writing process and coordinate the witnessing and signing of the wills, as well as navigate any legal issues that may arise especially where wills that involve a greater degree of complexity.

No one likes to think about their own eventual passing, but our deaths are perhaps the only thing we can be sure of – we certainly shouldn’t shy away from giving ourselves a voice in the event of death. It might be one of the last acts of love for the people that you care about, to let them know that they were in your thoughts when you are no longer around.

Categories: Will Writing

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