by Tiu Foo Woei
Published November 18, 2017
In life, people plan for what they eat, wear, and how they live and go about their affairs, properties and personal effects.
But how do people plan for what comes after death?
For that, you need a will.
First, what is a will?
Section 2 of the Wills Act 1959 defines it as:
“…a declaration intended to have legal effect of the intentions of a testator with respect to his property or other matters which he desires to be carried into effect after his death and includes a testament, a codicil and an appointment by will or by writing in the nature of a will in exercise of a power and also a disposition by will or testament of the guardianship, custody and tuition of any child.”
In ordinary language, a will is a document which contains the wishes of a person. The will takes effect upon the death of the person who executed it.
A will helps your loved ones. There are many advantages to making one.
You can, for instance:
choose who your beneficiaries are, and how your assets are to be distributed among them (i.e. the portion that you would like each of them to inherit);
choose your trustee and executors to administer your estate;
choose the guardian of your minor children;
minimise the chances of family disputes over property;
speed up the distribution process considerably;
reduce the costs of administering your estate; and
express your wishes for your funeral arrangements.
There are specific formalities, or requirements, to ensure that a will is valid. The wishes of the person who executed the will must be clear, and so too his intentions (whether practicable or otherwise) so as to meet the events that may occur. Otherwise, the will may be challenged.
A person who dies without a will dies ‘intestate’. When this happens, the law steps in:
your assets will be distributed according to the formulas set out in the Distribution Act 1958 (and not according to your wishes or the needs of your family members);
the court will appoint a trustee and executor to administer your estate, and this may give rise to disputes between family members or beneficiaries as to who should be appointed and what the true assets are;
the court will appoint a guardian for your minor children, and the person so-appointed may not necessarily be one of your exact preference; and/or
the distribution process will take longer and cost more - ordinarily, this requires the furnishing (or exemption) of a security bond and the appointment of 2 sureties to guarantee the proper administration of the estate, and further court orders when property must be dealt with.
In a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789, which was re-printed in The Works of Benjamin Franklin, 1817, Benjamin Franklin stated:
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Life is uncertain. It is better to prepare for the certainty of death, and for the loved ones you leave behind, by caring for them as you live than to let them suffer thereafter.