When it comes to planning for their finances, many individuals in Singapore put off writing a will because they believe it to be a complicated matter. Indeed, a valid will requires compliance to technicalities and careful usage of complex terminology and phrases. As with all other legal documents, carelessly written wills can cause misunderstandings which may, in turn, lead to disputes among the beneficiaries.
In this article, we take a look at the basic building blocks of a will, i.e., the key persons involved in writing a will in Singapore:
A testator refers to the person who owns the assets to be distributed upon his/her passing. In accordance to Singapore law, anyone over 21 years old can have a will written on his/her behalf, but individuals who are 35 years old and above are typically the ones who needs a will the most, especially if they are married with children. This is because, in addition to instructions on how to distribute their wealth, testators can also name the legal guardians of their children. In other words, parents can make plans to ensure that their children are taken care of by the family members they prefer.
Beneficiaries are individuals who stand to receive financial and/or non-financial gains when a testator passes. Beneficiaries can be anyone, including, but not limited to, minors, spouses, organisations (e.g. – charity), strangers, illegitimate children, etc. According to the Ministry of Law Public Trustee’s Office in Singapore, the inheritance of beneficiaries who are also minors – such as dependent children – will not be distributed directly to them. Instead, such inheritance will be held in trust for them until they reach at least 18 or 21 years old, depending on the nature of the money they inherited.
Executors refer to the individuals who are entrusted with the duty of distributing the wealth of the deceased in accordance to the will. The testator can appoint as many executors as he/she wants, and everyone from professional executors licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to the beneficiaries of the will can be the executors. However, before making any plans, do take note that there are legal restrictions in Singapore that must be adhered to, such as:
- Executors must be above 21 years old.
- Executors must financially-sound, i.e. – not be bankrupt.
- Executors must be of sound mind.
The role of a witness is to testify that the testator is acting rationally and is not under duress when signing the will. Hence, when writing a will in Singapore, it is important to note that at least 2 witnesses must be present when the testator signs the will.
There are no specific career requirements to being a witness. However, there are other requirements that a witness must comply to, such as:
1. A witness cannot be a beneficiary.
2. A witness cannot be the spouse of a beneficiary.
3. Mentally sound and capable witnesses are preferred.
4. A witness cannot be a creditor.
5. A witness cannot be the spouse of a creditor.
6. An executor can also be a witness (provided that he/she is not a beneficiary).
As the name suggests, will writers are the professionals that takes on the responsibility of writing a clear and error-free will to ensure that the wishes of the deceased are protected by the law and are honoured upon the passing of the testator. Many shy away from hiring a professional because they are under the impression that it’d be expensive but that may not be true in the long run. After all, hiring a will writer means that there is a smaller possibility for rewrites. Moreover, a well written will may be more affordable than one may think. The price of a will depends on its complexity.
Some independent financial advisory firms also provide will writing services to their clients and is a convenient one-stop centre for testators. In addition to helping a testator write a will professionally, they can also help plan for and/or manage the testator’s finances and insurance coverage.