Writing a Will: the Why, the How, and How Much
Writing a will is not just for tycoons looking to head off family feuds over inheritance. It is, in fact, a legal tool that is useful no matter where you stand on the socio-economic scale.
And perhaps best of all, writing a will is very affordable, but there are some associated costs that you need to be aware of.
Here everything you need to know about writing, storing and executing your will in Singapore, and what happens if you don’t have one.
What Is A Will And Why Should You Write One?
A will is a legal document that contains instructions regarding the distribution of property and assets, as well as care of dependent children, after one’s passing. Provisions for special circumstances may also be included, if desired.
These instructions will be carried out by the executor of the will (an individual or entity especially appointed to the task) — to the extent it is lawful and possible to do so.
Thus, having a will allows you to offer clarity to the loved ones you leave behind, which can be helpful in quelling any quarrels or fights over inheritance issues.
The other reason why you should have a will is because those who pass away without one (aka passing intestate) will see the government stepping in to distribute their assets according to prevailing intestacy laws — with outcomes that your family members may not be happy with.
Hence, rather than anything taboo or inauspicious, think of writing a will as a final gift to your loved ones that preserves harmony and helps the family get over your passing.
What Must A Will Contain?
These are the components that a will must contain:
- Name and personal details of the will-maker (IC number, address, citizenship, gender, etc)
- Name and details of the will’s executor
- Name and details of the will’s beneficiaries (contact details, relationship, etc)
- List of assets to be distributed through the will
- Instructions for the distribution of said assets
- Your signature
- Signed statements of at least two witnesses (at least 21, and not beneficiaries, or spouses of beneficiaries)
To be accepted as having legal status, a will must be created in writing. Audio recordings or oral instructions are not accepted, and may be challenged in court.
Also, you must be at least 21 years old and of sound mind when writing the will for the will to be considered valid.
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What Assets Are Not Covered Under A Will?
Note that certain types of assets are not covered under your will, and you do not need to list them down in your will.
CPF savings. These are not considered to be part of your estate, and thus will be distributed according to your next-of-kin by the authorities. You can tweak the distribution by making the appropriate CPF Nominations. Assets held in trust. These are also not covered by your will, and will instead be distributed according to the terms stipulated in the trust.
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How To Write A Will And How Much Does It Cost?
Writing a will is really quite simple, and many people write one on their own using an online template or simply by creating it on their favourite word processor.
Others, understandably, may feel more comfortable creating a will with the help of a professional.
Let’s take a closer look at both methods, and how much each one costs.
Writing A Will Yourself Or Using Online Tools (Free)
Anyone can create their own will, as long as the requisite components and conditions are fulfilled. There is also no specific format to be followed.
If you prefer, you can also consult any number of online templates to help you write your will. Alternatively, you may also choose to use an online will generator.
Creating a will on your own can be done free of charge.
Writing A Will With The Help Of A Professional (S$200 to S$500)
If you prefer, you can also engage a professional such as a lawyer to help you create your will.
In general, will-making packages include writing, signing, witnessing and properly storing your will.
This will cost you anywhere from S$200 to S$500 — more if you also have additional requests, such as appointing the law firm as the executor of your will, as explained below.
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What Other Costs Are There To Consider?
Writing your will isn’t the end of the story; you also have to ensure your will is properly stored (so that it remains legible when the time comes for it to be read), and will also need someone to execute your will on your behalf.
This means that there are some additional costs to take note of.
Properly Storing Your Will (S$100 to S$200 Per Year)
Because a will must be a written (or printed) document bearing your signature, there is a risk of the will being misplaced, accidentally destroyed, or becoming unreadable due to wear and tear.
Hence, it is necessary to store your will in a safe space and shielded from degradation and other environmental hazards.
Apart from investing in a dry box kept at home, there are some other options you can consider.
- Professional will custody — approximately S$100 per year
- Bank deposit box — from S$200 per year
It may also be helpful to store a digital copy of your will as a backup at the Wills Registry of Singapore, at a one-time fee of S$50.
Appointing An Executor Of Your Will (Up To 5% Of Assets Distributed)
Someone will need to read and execute your will after your passing; this party is known as the will executor.
There are no restrictions on who you may appoint to the role, but there may be additional costs involved, as follows:
- Family member or close friend. No fees or charges needed, but it is customary to offer a small token of appreciation for the time and effort involved.
- Professional executor, such as your law firm. A fee may be quoted, or up to 5% of the value of the assets distributed.
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How Much Does It Cost To Write, Store And Execute A Will in Singapore?
Writing, storing and executing your will is overall quite affordable, especially if you choose to write your will yourself or using an online template.
Executing your will can also be done quite cost-effectively, especially if you have a family friend or loved one who is willing to shoulder the duty without expecting a large stipend.
The most costly bit is storage, as you need to pay a fee for every year you store your will. But still, at around S$100 per year, it’s a relatively minor sum.