No one, especially women, should ignore estate planning, no matter their background or marital status. Here’s a basic rundown of what estate planning entails, and five key areas to look into.
Estate planning is an important tool that can save families from further grief and act as a guiding light during times of loss. While estate planning may be traditionally thought of as the sole domain of the patriarch, such thinking ignores specific issues that women face.
For instance, women live longer than men, may leave the workforce earlier, and are likely to inherit less family wealth. Women also commonly end up with custody of the children in a divorce.
All these mean that women and families should approach estate planning in a more comprehensive manner.
To help you get the conversation started, here are five key things every woman should know about estate planning.
1. Estate planning goes beyond simply writing a will
A will is a legal document that sets out your wishes and intentions for the distribution of your assets and the care of dependants. However, there is more to estate planning than simply deciding who gets what, and how much.
Estate planning makes provisions for your care during the final phase of your life or when you are no longer able to care for yourself.
It also encompasses a review of the family’s finances so as to properly account for all eventualities – including making sure there are sufficient funds in retirement, to pay for children’s education, or to maintain a separate household in case of a marital breakup.
Ultimately, women should think of estate planning as a means to empower them to make plans as they see fit, in alignment with their needs, priorities and preferences.
This can be particularly helpful for women who are facing complicated situations, such as strained marriages, estranged loved ones or warring family members.
2. Don’t neglect your CPF nominations
Under the law, CPF monies are excluded from your will. This means that the instructions in your will will not apply to your CPF assets.
Any leftover CPF balances, unused CPF Life premiums and – if you have them – discounted Singtel Shares will be handed over to the Public Office and distributed according to prevailing laws.
This usually means being split among remaining immediate family members first, or if unavailable, then going down the line to the next of kin and ultimately ending up as part of the nation’s coffers.
You can, however, make a CPF nomination to dictate how your CPF savings should be distributed. Note that you can nominate anyone you wish, even individuals that are not related to you by blood.
Now, here’s the tricky part. CPF nominations made while you were single will be revoked upon marriage, requiring you to make them again. But, any nominations made while married will persist after divorce – unless you change the nominees.
The bottom line is, don’t neglect to check your CPF nomination, especially after a change in your marital status.
Related to this topic: CPF Nominations: What Happens To Your CPF Money After You Die?
3. Check how joint property is held
If you co-own a property with your spouse or multiple family members, you will want to check how the property is held, as it can impact the distribution of your estate.
When a property is owned in joint tenancy, if one co-owner dies, the ownership of the property automatically transfers to the other co-owners. This survivorship provision takes precedence over any instructions left in your will, which results in the erosion of your inheritance left to your children.
To avoid this, switch your joint tenancy to tenancy-in-common. This makes sure that your share of the property is retained after your death, allowing it to be distributed to your children (or other parties) in accordance with your last wishes.
Related to this topic: Joint Tenancy vs Tenancy-In-Common: Which Should You Property Owners Choose?
4. Make insurance nominations for faster payouts
By default, insurance companies consider immediate family members, such as the surviving spouse and/or children, to be the beneficiaries of a life policy, or any policy with a death benefit.
To claim the policy payout, your beneficiaries will need to submit the necessary paperwork – usually a Grant of Probate – but this process can take time to complete.
You can speed up the process by making nominations in your life insurance policy, naming your family members as beneficiaries. You can also use a nomination to provide a share of the payout to any other individual you wish, such as a distant relative or a close friend.
Note that insurance nominations come in two forms – irrevocable (aka an insurance trust) and revocable. Consult your financial adviser to understand the differences between the two and help you choose the best option for your needs.
5. Set up an Advanced Medical Directive and appoint Lasting Power of Attorney
Earlier, we pointed out that estate planning also includes making provisions that apply while you are still living. Let’s zoom in further.
One important consideration is the establishment of an Advanced Medical Directive (AMD) that spells out the type and degree of medical care you want in advance.
Specifically, this pertains to your right to refuse any extraordinary life-sustaining treatment to be used to prolong your life during a terminal illness, so as to avoid further suffering and be allowed to die in peace and dignity.
An AMD comes into play when you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to express your wishes to the medical team. The decision to have an AMD is completely voluntary, and it is against the law for anyone to compel you to make one.
As you age, conditions can also render you unable to communicate your wishes clearly, which can open you up to harmful manipulation from others. To protect yourself, appoint Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to someone you trust.
This individual will then become responsible for all decisions in regards to your affairs when you are no longer mentally fit to manage them on your own.
Read these next:
Inheritance Planning: 5 Important Things You Should Know
Joint Tenancy vs Tenancy-In-Common: Which Should You Property Owners Choose?
What is Legacy Planning, and When Should You Start?
A Guide To Leaving A Legacy In Singapore
What is Will Writing and How Does That Impact Your Legacy Planning?
Why You Should Nominate Beneficiaries For Your Insurance Policies & How To Nominate
The Real Cost: Will Writing — How Much It Costs, Where To Go, And more
CPF Nominations: What Happens To Your CPF Money After You Die?