Making a will is not a pleasant task. In fact, all of us would like to believe that we are immortal and death happens to other people.
Let me tell you that the one thing that is certain in life is death. My advice is to make a will.
The purpose of this article is to give you a general idea of what you need to know if you intend to start this process.
These are some of the questions our clients have posed to us.
Why should I make a will?
- By making a will you are taking charge of how your own assets are going to be distributed. Only you know exactly what assets you have.
- This makes the process of administering your estate easier for your loved ones as the cost of making and keeping a will is negligible as opposed to the process for obtaining letters of administration which can be protracted and costly to your loved ones.
- With a will, you can choose who will benefit from your estate, and who will not.
- You will be reducing the risk of your loved ones facing family disputes related to the distribution of your property or wealth.
- You will be able to make a donation to a charitable cause that is close to your heart through your will.
I don’t have that many assets!
- You don’t need to be a millionaire to consider making a will.
- If you have a property in your name, a car, some bank accounts, any intellectual property rights or trust fund investments- you are a right candidate.
How long is the will valid for?
Once your will is executed, it shall be valid until and unless it is replaced with a new one. Your will shall automatically be revoked if you marry or convert to Islam.
What do I need to do?
Here is a checklist we give our clients:
- List of assets and liabilities (For eg. Properties, vehicles, monies in trust accounts, investments, stocks/ bonds etc)
- Documents to show details of these assets and liabilities.
- Bank account facilities/details
- Statement of Account or Pass Book etc.
- Will-maker’s particulars (Copy of IC)
- Choose an executor (a person to manage/handle your estate) (Copy of IC)
- List of beneficiaries (names of members of your family, friends/charities you want to leave your property to) (Copy of IC)
- Particulars of 2 witnesses who will be witnessing the signing of the will (cannot be the executor and beneficiaries) (Copy of IC)
- If you have an ex-spouse, his/her particulars and whether you want anything left to him/her. (Copy of IC)
- Any other special instructions? (For eg. cremation or burial etc, special instructions for obituary, special donation to specific charitable organisations?
An executor is a person who will ensure that the terms of your will are carried out. I always advise my clients to ensure that they appoint an executor who is trustworthy and responsible. It is always advisable to appoint someone who is willing and able to act as your executor, so it would be best to obtain their consent before you appoint them as your executor.
If you do not wish to appoint an individual to be your executor, you may appoint a trust company to act as your executor and/or trustee.
Q: Can my executor also be a beneficiary under my will?
Q: Who will keep my will?
A: You can keep your will in a safe place and inform your executor on its location so he or she can recover the will when it is required. Alternatively, you may wish to engage the services of a will depository.
Q: Can my will be contested?
A: Yes, a disgruntled next of kin or someone who thinks he or she is entitled to a larger part of your estate may contest your will on several grounds ie. that you were of unsound mind when you made the will or that the will is a forged document or that it was improperly executed or that you were under undue influence where you were made to sign the will or that the contents of the will are too ambiguous.
As a last piece of advice, do remember that if you die intestate (ie. without a will), then the Distribution Act 1958 will come into force and your property will be distributed among your first, immediate surviving family members ie. your spouse or your parents. If you do not have any immediate surviving family members, then your property will be distributed to your siblings, grandparents, uncles or aunts, great grandparents. If you have no living relatives, then your whole estate will go to the government.
Founder, Messrs Ravindran