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Guide to Making a Will in Singapore
Planning the distribution of one’s assets way before death will spare your surviving beneficiaries confusion and legal expenses in the future.
But planning isn’t enough. You have to put your will in writing for it to be legally binding.
Also, you have to ensure that your will allows no room for ambiguity.
Sounds challenging? Here is a guide to creating a will in Singapore to help you make your first draft.
Inside This Guide
- How to Make a Will
- Requirements for Making a Will
- Tips for Writing a Will
- Importance of a Will
- Wills Before and After Marriage
How to Make A Will
Making a will involves careful preparation and meticulous documentation. Here are the following things that you need to prepare before you write your first draft:
- Schedule of assets
- List of beneficiaries (and allocation of assets)
- List of liabilities
- The executor of your will
- Important clauses
- Witnesses to sign the will
- Legal assistance from wills lawyers
1. Schedule of Assets
Declaring your assets will make for much simpler distribution tracking. Your executor and surviving beneficiaries will thank you for it.
What is a schedule of assets?
A schedule of assets is simply a list of all your assets, such as your real estate, shares, stocks, vehicles, and jewelry.
This sample form from the Singapore Judiciary will give you an idea of how to list down all that you own.
Some of the specific items to include in this document are
- Your HDB flat
- Your condominium unit or landed property
- Your flat or property shares
- Money in your bank accounts
- Insurance policies
- Shares and stocks
- Your vehicle/s
- Jewelry items
- Items from your safe deposit box (if existing)
Note that while you’re required to declare all your assets on this list, you don’t necessarily have to distribute all of them to surviving beneficiaries upon your death.
Writing a will is a way for you to specify what you want to allocate and what to do with the remaining assets.
The only thing you need not include in the schedule of assets is your Central Provident Fund (CPF). If you want to allocate this fund to your surviving beneficiaries, you need to apply for a CPF nomination first.
2. List of Beneficiaries (and Allocation of Assets)
You need to sit down and devote some time to listing your beneficiaries to avoid leaving out anyone. Write each beneficiary’s full name and decide how much they would receive.
Know that beneficiaries not yet of legal age can’t directly receive part of your assets. The workaround here is to list their guardians’ names instead.
Should the guardians of the under-aged beneficiary pass away, it will also help to name a backup or reserve beneficiary.
3. List of Liabilities
You need to prepare a list of your liabilities, as you will include them in your will. Some of the common ones include
- Credit card debts
- Illegally incurred debts
It’s standard for will executors to manage your assets to pay off your debts first before proceeding with distributing them to your surviving beneficiaries.
Note also that you should think about how you want your liabilities to be paid upon your demise beforehand, as you will be including such instructions in your will.
4. The Executor of Your Will
Take some time to determine who will execute your will upon your death, as this role is not a simple one.
We recommend picking someone you can trust, who is financially savvy, not bankrupt, and of sound mind, as these qualities are crucial to carrying out an executor’s tasks.
Some of the duties of an executor include
- Funeral arrangements
- Applying for a Grant of Probate
- Locating the relevant assets of the deceased
- Paying debts and taxes the deceased owes
- Managing the distribution of assets to beneficiaries
You might also want to inform your chosen executor ahead of time. There is a possibility that your first pick will reject the appointment given the complexity of the role, so prepare backups.
If the executor agrees to the role, you can share this toolkit to help them with their tasks later.
Note that the executor should also be over 21 years old by the time of your demise.
Who can you choose to be the executor of a will?
The people you can choose to be the executor of your will can be your partner, close relative, family friend, professional trustee, or a combination of such persons.
Choosing your spouse or close relative to manage your assets once you’re gone may be the most convenient way since you’re most likely living with them and know them inside and out.
That said, you should consider their skills in transacting and organizing, only choosing them if you’re sure they can handle the paperwork well.
You wouldn’t want to overwhelm your loved ones when they’re mourning for you, right?
If you think your loved ones are not up to the task, a family friend is the next best option.
Still, you should secure your friend’s consent for this option to work.
If you don’t mind paying additional fees, naming a professional trustee as your will executor is practical.
Doing so will spare your loved ones the tedious process of managing your assets, and you’re ensured that the person handling is trained for the job.
Can the beneficiary of a will be the executor in Singapore?
As there are no rules stating otherwise, you can appoint the beneficiary of a will as the executor in Singapore.
Note that the beneficiary should be over 21 years old by the time they need to carry out the executor role.
But while it’s not prohibited, you might want to think twice before appointing your beneficiary as your will executor. A conflict of interest might arise if you have multiple beneficiaries.
That said, this is a convenient option if the person you appointed is the sole beneficiary of your assets.
5. Important Clauses
Depending on your situation, you might need to draft a revocation clause and a residuary clause to include in your will.
What is a revocation clause in a will?
A will’s revocation clause effectively invalidates all previous wills that you might have written. It comes in a statement declaring that the will on hand is your last will and testament.
Note that you need to update your will on Singapore’s Wills Registry to complete the revocation. Shredding the previous wills is also recommended.
What is a residuary clause in a will?
The residuary clause in a will is a safety net to ensure that all assets of the deceased are distributed, including residuary property.
Such properties include
- Assets not specified in the will due to mistakes
- Assets not distributed due to the beneficiary passing away
- Assets that were subject to invalid or illegal distribution
- Assets acquired after the will is made
6. Witnesses to Sign the Will
You should secure two or more witnesses who should be there when you sign your will. These witnesses will also sign the document.
Note that the witnesses cannot be named as beneficiaries and they must not be spouses of any recipients included in your will.
If you have sought legal help for drafting your will, the lawyer and their assistant may be picked as witnesses (provided you’re not related).
7. Legal Assistance from Wills Lawyers
While it’s perfectly fine to draft the will yourself, it might be worth it to hire a wills lawyer to help you.
A professional will be able to point out if anything is missing from your will. Additionally, you can consult them about the legal implications of any statement you choose to include in the document.
How much does it cost to do a will in Singapore?
Hiring a lawyer to draft your will cost between $200 and $400. The price might be higher if your situation is more complex, such as if you have assets abroad.
If you want to save money, you can opt to use online will makers such as WillCraft and OCBC Online Will Generator. These affordable methods require you to input your information one time, and the platforms will generate a draft.
Drafts, whether they are made through online generators or through the help of lawyers, will only be valid if the testator (you) and two witnesses sign the document.
Requirements for Making a Will in Singapore
Not all people can draft a will in Singapore. Check out the requirements to see if you’re eligible.
What are the requirements for a will to be valid in Singapore?
For a will to be valid in Singapore, the testator (the one who writes the will) should satisfy the following requirements
- The will must be in writing.
The person making the will should put it in writing.
- The testator must be 21 years old and above.
The age requirement is specified in Singapore’s Wills Act.
- The testator should be of sound mind.
The testator should be writing the will of their own accord and should not be coerced to do so by other people.
- A representative to sign the document.
If the testator is unable to sign due to a medical condition or old age, a representative should sign in his stead, provided that the signing is done in the testator’s presence.
- The will must be signed by the testator and witnesses.
The testator should affix their signature at the end of the will in the presence of witnesses.
The witnesses should also sign the document in the same event.
What makes a will invalid in Singapore?
A will in Singapore is considered invalid if it does not satisfy the basic requirements, was made by fraud, or if the lawyer who drafted the document made a mistake.
The will does not satisfy the basic requirements
One of the initial requirements in a will is that the testator should be 21 years of age. Any will drafted at a younger age is automatically invalid.
There is also the requirement that the testator should be of sound mind. That said, any proof that the writer of the will does not have the mental capacity for the task will invalidate the document.
The will should also be written without undue influence. Otherwise, the document will not be legally binding.
The will is made by fraud
Fraudulent acts, such as making a person sign the will unknowingly or committing forgery, will render the document invalid.
The latter will even put the offender in jail.
The lawyer who drafted the will made a mistake
The negligence of a lawyer who wrote the will can invalidate the document.
Some of the negligible acts include errors in wording that will change the testator’s true intentions or failure to add a beneficiary to the will.
Is a handwritten will legal in Singapore?
A handwritten will is perfectly legal in Singapore, provided that it’s signed by the testator and the witnesses.
It should also contain pertinent information such as the testator’s schedule of assets, beneficiaries, instructions on distribution, and other relevant clauses.
Is an online will legal in Singapore?
An online will is legal in Singapore, provided that you made it when you’re at least 21 years old.
Also, the will should be printed so it contains the required signatures (yours and your witnesses).
Tips for Writing a Will
If you’re confident that you can write a will on your own, then good for you! This option can certainly save you several dollars.
To help, we got some tips for writing a will effectively.
Identify the main components of a will
Before you sit down and write, it will be smart to identify crucial information that you should include in your will.
These components are
- Identification of the testator (you)
- Revocation of previous wills (if you have written wills before)
- Appointed executors, trustees, and guardians (the latter is in the case of an underaged beneficiary)
- Names of the beneficiaries
- Distribution of property (by percentage and amount)
- Residuary clause for the remainder of the estate
- Powers and instructions to the executor and/or trustee
- Testimonium and attestation
A lot of wills and testaments are formatted in this order, too.
Check out templates online
You can get inspiration from templates of wills available online. It is a cost-effective and time-saving way to improve your draft.
Note, though, that most templates found online come in simple and generic forms. These can help tremendously if your situation is not that complex.
Declare that the will is your last at the beginning of the document
Identify the document as your “last will” to eliminate any ambiguity right off the bat. You can include this information in the first paragraph of the will.
When declaring your identity, be sure to include your NRIC number and address!
Appoint a backup executor
You can appoint an executor and a backup executor in one clause when writing your will. Ensure that you include the appointees’ full names, NRIC numbers, and addresses.
Ensure that the assets you identify in your will are distributable
Some properties are held in joint tenancy and should not be willed away.
If you want to distribute such assets, you should convert the joint tenancy to tenants-in-common first (preferably with the help of a conveyancing lawyer).
Importance of a Will
Knowing how to write a will is good, but so is knowing why you should prepare one in the first place.
What is the importance of having a will?
It’s important to make a will, as it helps ensure that the loved ones you’ll be leaving behind are well provided for. It helps put all the assets you’ve accumulated throughout the years to good use.
Writing a will also allows you to distribute your assets to beneficiaries the way you deem fit. For instance, you might want to share some of your estates with a trusted friend or a co-worker.
The said considerations will be impossible if you don’t have a will, as we can see in the provisions of the Interstate Succession Act.
Section 7 of the said act specifies that in the absence of a will, your estate will be distributed depending on your surviving relatives only (and that excludes your good friend).
For example, if your only survivor is your spouse, everything that you own will be granted to him or her. If you have no relatives, the government will take your assets.
An important note: The Intestate Succession Act does not apply to Muslims. Inheritance in the Muslim community is governed by the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) instead.
Other Benefits of Having a Will
Aside from the proper distribution of assets, writing a will helps your survivors in other ways.
- A will minimizes disputes among your relatives and allows them to mourn in peace
- A will allows you to appoint a guardian for your children
- A will allows you to choose the person who will manage your assets after you’re gone
- A will allows you to specify your preferred funeral
Wills Before and After Marriage
Knowing the importance of preparing a will is also crucial if you’re contemplating marrying or leaving a marriage.
What happens to an existing will upon marriage?
An existing will done when you were single is automatically revoked once you’ve married in Singapore. As such, you must produce a fresh will, ideally including your spouse in the listed beneficiaries.
To avoid confusion, you should tear and shred your previous will. It’s also best practice to inform your executor or relatives of the location of the new will for later retrieval.
Is my will void if I remarry?
Divorcing and remarrying in Singapore does not automatically invalidate a will signed during your previous marriage.
This means that if you don’t write a fresh will, the beneficiaries of the previous will in your prior union stay the same. If you included your spouse in that old will, he or she would share a part of your estate even after divorce.
If you don’t wish to share your properties with your old spouse upon your death, tearing and shredding your will can revoke the document.
Additionally, you might want to write a fresh will to match your wishes at present.
Do you need to register your will in Singapore?
You are not required to register your will in Singapore. That said, you can register your information at the Wills Registry.
Doing so will allow your executor and family members to have access to your will, specifically to data including your personal details and the location of the document.
Note that the registry does not keep a physical copy of your will.
Where should I keep my will in Singapore?
You can keep your will in Singapore by entrusting it to a will custody service or storing it in a safe deposit box.
- Will custody service. Professional custody services store your will in a safe and secure environment. Some of the companies even keep the document in a fire and waterproof vault.
Costs for this storage service can go up to $80 annually.
- Safe deposit box. Financial institutions have safe deposit box services you can avail of for about $250 annually. This option is ideal if you’re looking to store other items.
You can also choose to entrust your will to a close friend if you don’t want it at home. However, this option comes with risks such as your relationship turning sour or the entrusted one passing on before you.