When should one consider writing up a will and start thinking about what legacy they want to leave behind? While “will writing” conjures up images of musty, old rooms and deathbeds, one’s will should be made well in advance of life’s end.
In fact, it would make more sense to make our estate plan while we are young, healthy and of sound mind. In this article, “estate” refers to all the money and property owned by a person, especially at death.
Just as many of us start saving for retirement the moment we start working, writing our will and making plans related to wealth transfer are also part and parcel of practising good financial hygiene.
As Asians, perhaps one might feel that it is pantang (Malay for “taboo”) to think about mortality, let alone plan for it. However, estate planning will provide clarity on what will happen to your belongings and if they will go to the right people and places after the inevitable happens.
In Singapore, when a person dies without a will, their financial holdings cannot be dealt with immediately. The estate settlement process may become more expensive and troublesome for the surviving family members.
Without a will, the deceased’s assets will be distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act. And if the deceased has no surviving relatives, his or her possessions will go to the State.
Therefore, unless you are content to allow intestacy laws to decide what happens to your legacy, you should have a will in place.
Read also: What happens if one dies without a will?
As uncomfortable as it may be to think about end-of-life matters, we promise you that it is a rewarding process. When you are done, you’ll feel more confident and reassured that your hard-earned wealth is well-protected when you’re no longer around.
7 milestones to make will writing a priority
Here are seven milestone events that provide good reason to write a will.
If you are above age 21, you are guaranteed to have experienced at least one of the following:
1. Reaching age 21
In Singapore, the first criterion for writing a valid will is that one must be 21 years of age. So why not start #adulting on the right foot on this birthday?
If you are the beneficiary of someone else’s will, you may even have received a small windfall as some wills may mandate that gifts to underaged beneficiaries be held on trust until they turn 21. As you start accumulating assets and taking on financial responsibilities, you might also want to start planning your legacy.
2. When you start accumulating cash and other assets
Have you started receiving a monthly salary? Received a generous bonus? Won the lottery? Whether you chose to squirrel away your money in a fixed deposit bank account, invest it in the market or use it to start a business – these assets become part of your estate and will eventually go to your heirs.
If you don’t want your assets to be liquidated and distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act, you should draw up specific instructions with a will.
3. When you change your marital status
Marriage, divorce, and remarriage are significant life events which warrant the writing (or rewriting) of a will. When you get married or remarried, the will that you made beforehand will become invalid. However, when you and your partner decide to part ways, your divorce does not nullify that will. If you do not want your ex-spouse to inherit your estate, you will need to make a new will.
If you are in a blended family arrangement, how much of your wealth do you want your current spouse to inherit? How do you wish to provide for the children you had with your ex-spouse? A will would provide clarity in such circumstances and prevent family disputes.
4. When your children are born, and when they turn 21
Although the Intestate Succession Act does provide for your children, a will can guarantee that they are taken care of exactly the way you intend. For example, a will can be used to name a guardian for children below 21 in case both parents die.
When your children turn 21, you may wish to update your will accordingly and even name one of them as an executor.
5. When you start a business
How exciting it is to strike it out on your own! As an entrepreneur, you’d certainly be thinking about expansion. But how about succession? Who will take care of your businesses when you’re no longer around? Do you plan to leave your proprietary information – such as your formulas, recipes, and production methods – to someone?
You will need to think about the legacy you want to leave behind, and who will be carrying the torch.
6. When you buy immovable property
You may have purchased a piece of real estate as your home or as a financial asset. Some of these immovable properties may be solely owned by you, and some of them may be jointly tenanted. Joint tenants will inherit the property by survivorship, but family members whose names are not on the title deed may not have any legal right to continue living on the premises after you pass on. To ensure that those we love will continue to have a roof over their head after we die, a will may be the best way to protect their interests.
If your property is a HDB flat, you may wish to consult the HDB website on the terms and conditions of transferring the interest of the flat upon the demise of an owner.
7. When it has been a long time
Legacy planning experts advise that you review and update your estate plans at least every five years, and after any of the abovementioned major events happen. As life goes on, your priorities and liabilities will change. These, as well as changes in family relationships, can also change the way you wish to distribute your estate. That’s why even if you already have a will in place, it may be necessary to update it in time.
When you use an online legacy planner such as iWills.sg, you get to do more than just write a will. Users get to compile and review their schedule of assets with a visually comprehensive Legacy Dashboard. You can add your assets to the list as you accumulate them, thus making sure that no stone is unturned as you map out your wealth. You can make a new will in minutes, or take as long as you need on iWills.sg’s user-friendly interface. Tick off this important task on your to-do list now!
This article has been adapted from The Week.