We all know how critical it is to have all your financial affairs in order. One important aspect of this is to write a will, but shockingly, a lot of people – particularly women – tend to overlook drafting this very crucial document.
Essential Information to Protect Your Family
“Do not underestimate the repercussions of not having a will” warned Robert White, a partner at St James’s Place Wealth Management. “When you pass away without even a simple will in place, your estate goes into probate – where the court determines how your assets should be split – a process that could take as long as six years if a legal tussle ensues. In contrast, by having a will, the division of your estate and the implementation of care plans would happen within three to six months.”
A will therefore ensures that your bereft loved one will not plunge headlong into an administrative nightmare. And more importantly, it ensures that your children are raised by trusted caregivers in the event of your demise. So what do you need to consider even before even putting pen to paper?
Determine if You Need One or Multiple Wills
Individuals who own assets in different countries might have to draw up multiple wills in accordance with local laws and practices. To ensure that your beneficiaries are not caught out after your death, do consult professionals such as a wealth manager or financial advisor. Normally, they will direct you to vetted lawyers to determine if this is really necessary.
Decide Who Will Care for Your Children if You Pass Away
In Singapore, in the immediate absence of a will naming a caregiver, it is likely that a child will first be placed under the care and protection of social services. Hence, it would be sensible for parents to appoint the guardian of their choice in their will. In most cases, the surviving parent of the child is appointed as the guardian. However, single mothers and those in second or subsequent marriages should ensure that their wills spell out exactly who they want to entrust their child to. This effectively eliminates any custody battles.
When choosing a guardian it is best to appoint one that shares the same parenting style, values and religious beliefs as you. Once you’ve narrowed your list, approach them and ask how they would feel being the guardian of your child. In addition, you also need to outline the financial, physical and custodial arrangements for your child to your proposed guardian. These conversations might uncover their true feelings and attitudes that will help you make your final decision.
List All Your Assets, Beneficiaries and Executors
To minimise any ambiguity, and to ensure that your wishes are carried out to the latter, White suggests creating a roll that specifies the beneficiaries for each and every asset within your estate. He added, “If you have sentimental items such as family heirlooms, a vintage car, art or antique furniture and wish to give them to specific persons upon your demise, do highlight that clearly in your will. At the same time, ensure that your will appoints executors to deal with the disbursement of your estate.
Find Out if You Need Help or You if You Can Do It Yourself
Wills in Singapore need not be an expensive undertaking. White said: “If you’ve accumulated only a handful of assets, it makes more sense to do it yourself. You will save a small bundle.” Most wealth managers have templates that can be used to create simple wills and they are invaluable fonts of advice.
On the other hand, it is advisable for individuals with a diverse asset portfolio valued over US$1 million to engage lawyers to help them draft a will. A good wealth manager will be able to recommend highly experienced lawyers who can do this, while providing invaluable advice on how to set up trust funds for beneficiaries who are minors. Law firms in Singapore typically charge from as low as S$400 to as much as S$1,500 to craft wills, depending on the complexity involved. If you do not have a wealth manager, locate one quickly and easily though online platforms such as WealthUp.co.