Common myths about making a will that we need to stop believing now
In our previous article we discussed why making a will is something that most people ought to consider doing.
In this article we address some of the common misconceptions about wills.
Myth 1: Making a will is expensive and only for rich people.
Most people only require a simple will that will cost a few hundred dollars to have a professional draft for them. Many people in Singapore are “asset rich but cash poor”. While they may not have large amounts of ready cash at their disposal, many people in Singapore are putting away money towards their home, which alone is often worth at least half a million dollars in today’s prices, and likely to increase over the years. It only takes a small investment to ensure that your assets (which may number in the millions in a couple of years) are properly distributed after you are gone.
Myth 2: I will just leave everything to my spouse
That’s fine most of the time, but what happens if your spouse passes on before you? Or if you both pass on together (such as during a car accident). What if at some point your spouse remarries, or has children or step-children with another partner? By making out a will you can ensure that your estate is distributed in the way that you want, to protect the legacy that you leave behind, in a way that does not disadvantage your spouse. Another important aspect of your will would be to designate a guardian for your children if they are still minors when you pass on.
Myth 3: My family will sort out my estate for me
If a person passes on without a will, in Singapore the Intestate Succession Act (the “Act”) will apply, but only to provide for default and very general rules as to how a person’s estate shall be distributed. For example, under the Act, siblings often do not receive any portion of an estate unless the person passed on without being survived by any spouse, parents, or issue. In addition, there is an issue of appointing an administrator of the estate. Since there is more than one person who will be eligible to administer your estate under the Act, disputes may arise between beneficiaries as to who should administer your estate.
Myth 4: I’m still young and don’t need a will
The reality is, we will never know for sure when and how we will pass on. In the absence of a will, issues such as the appointment of guardians, and distribution of monies may take many months, sometimes years if there is lengthy litigation, to resolve. In the meantime, life for our loved ones such as young children are severely disrupted especially if they have no means of supporting themselves in the meantime.
Myth 5: Executors cannot be beneficiaries in a will
There are no restrictions at law in appointing a beneficiary of your will to be an executor as well.
Myth 6: A will and its contents remain private forever
Although it is recommended that you keep the contents of your will private and confidential, eventually its contents will be made public upon your passing. This is because probate is a public legal proceeding, the details of your estate may be publicly accessed by practically anyone. Including busybody neighbours and companies looking to sell your beneficiaries products and services. They can find out things such as the balance in your savings account, the properties you own, and the like. If you are interested in exploring possibilities in keeping your private affairs confidential, do consider speaking to a competent estate planning lawyer.