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What is Will Writing and How Does That Impact Your Legacy Planning?

Alevin Chan

Alevin Chan

Last updated 06 April, 2023

Will writing and legacy planning can seem to overlap in many areas. However, because certain assets are not covered by wills, a more complete solution would be to draw up a proper legacy plan.

Will writing is a common practice that protects your civil rights and safeguards your loved ones’ access to the estate you leave behind. A will can be a core component in your legacy planning, guiding and clarifying the distribution of your assets.

However, a will does not cover everything in your estate, which is why writing a will is only one step in the entire process of legacy planning.

Here’s what to understand about wills and writing one, and how it fits into your overall legacy planning. 

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Understanding will writing

What is a will?

A will is a legal document that contains your last wishes relating to the distribution of your assets and care of dependants left behind. It is a legally enforceable declaration that protects your civil rights to have your estate and personal affairs handled in the way you want.

If you die without a will, your assets and affairs will be overseen by the government acting in accordance with prevailing rules. This could see your loved ones having to bear with undue delays or disagreeable developments without the ability to object.


What does a will cover?

A will can set forth instructions and directives regarding:

  • Who gets your assets, what each party gets, and how much

  • Who do not get your assets (by default, anyone not named in your will is not entitled to your estate, but you can explicitly name persons to discourage them from mounting a challenge)

  • The care of underaged children and/or pets, including appointment of suitable guardians, or setting aside of funds

  • Gifts or donations to charitable organisations or specific parties, even non-relations

  • Treatment decisions and care preferences in case of serious injury or illness

Related to this topic: Inheriting A Property In Singapore: Do You Need To Pay Inheritance Tax And Stamp Duties?


What must a will contain?

To be considered complete and valid, a will must contain the following elements:

  • Your name and personal details (IC number, address, citizenship, gender, etc)

  • Name and details of the executor of your will

  • 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; they must be at least 21, not be beneficiaries, or spouses of beneficiaries

In addition, you must be at least 21 and of sound mind when writing your will. This means you have to declare as such in your will, and your witnesses must verify so.

And yes, your will must be in writing - oral or audio recordings are not accepted and may be challenged in court.

Caution – some assets cannot be governed by your will. 

While a will is used to convey your last wishes and instructions, in Singapore, not all assets are covered under your will. Here are two of them. 

1. CPF savings

The funds in your CPF account are not considered part of your estate. Hence, savings left in your CPF account will not be subject to your will, even if you include specific instructions for them.

Instead, your CPF savings will be distributed in either of the following ways:

  • Disbursed to your nominees named in your CPF Nomination, according to the ratio you stipulate

  • If no nominees have been named, your CPF savings will be forwarded to the Public Trustee Office for distribution in line with Singapore’s intestacy laws

2. Assets held in trust

Any assets or properties placed in a trust do not come under the terms of your will. Instead, they will be managed according to the terms stipulated in the trust.

Hence, you will also need to provide clear instructions on how you want assets held in trust to be handled, which will then be executed by the trustee on behalf of your beneficiaries.


Where to go for help crafting a will?

Because of its serious nature, care should be taken when writing a will.

Luckily, you don’t have to do it yourself – although you can if you’re confident you know what you’re doing, or only have very simple terms or instructions.

Here are some resources that you can tap on to help write your will.

Online will templates

There are several templates you can find online to use a reference for your own will. Simply download them, open them up using word processing software, and start filling in or editing them according to your needs.

Other types of online will templates work the other way around. You will be asked a series of questions and prompts, and your answers will be used to generate a will for you. You may further edit the output if you deem it necessary.

If you’re interested in trying out an online template, here are two options:


Legal firm or lawyer

Some legal firms offer professional will writing services which you can use to draw up a proper will. They will also be able to act as or supply suitable witnesses, saving you the trouble of looking for witnesses on your own – which may be inconvenient if you’re trying to keep your will private.

They can also help to safe-keep your will to prevent loss, damage or tampering which will void the will. Alternatively, you can also store your will in a bank safe deposit box.

This option may be preferable for those who may have complicated estates, or who simply want to eliminate any mistakes.


Priority banking

If you have a priority banking relationship, you may be able to tap on it for help with your will.

Your Relationship Manager is likely able to recommend a trusted law firm or partner to help oversee your will, or arrange the bank’s in-house will writing service, if one exists.  

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Applicable to new-to-bank only (i.e. users with no Citigold or Current and Savings Accounts). If a user has applied for Citi Credit Card or Personal Loan, they will still be eligible.

Plus, score over S$2,598 bonus cash when you maintain your Citigold relationship and fulfil the following qualifying criteria (T&Cs apply):

  • Complete an Investment Risk Profile and Fact Find Report and get S$100 cash plus S$138 cash (T&Cs apply).
  • Hold a valid primary/main Citi Credit Card and get a S$300 bonus cash reward.
  • Take up a Citi Home Loan and get a S$500 bonus cash reward.
  • Make S$100,000 worth of investments and/or insurance purchases with Citi to enjoy a S$600 bonus cash reward or more.
  • Maintain a Citigold relationship for 12 months from date of approval and get a S$960 cash reward.


Will writing and legacy planning

Now that you understand what a will can and cannot do, its place in legacy planning may be clearer too.

Legacy planning is the process of taking stock of your estate (assets, investments, insurance, properties, etc). that you want to leave behind, and determining how it should be managed or handled.

A will spells out your last wishes and directives regarding many components of your estate – making it an important piece of your legacy plan.

However, as there are certain assets that are not covered by your will, you will have to set out separate actions for those, such as making appropriate CPF Nominations.

Legacy planning, then, encompasses setting forth instructions for the entirety of your estate, a process in which a will plays an important role – even if it may not act as a complete solution.

Hence, it’s best to think of will writing and legacy planning as working hand-in-hand.


Read these next:

Inheriting A Property In Singapore: Do You Need To Pay Inheritance Tax And Stamp Duties?

Not Ju$t You: Someone Needs to Know Where Your Money Is

A Guide To Leaving A Legacy In Singapore

The Real Cost: Will Writing — How Much It Costs, Where To Go, And more

MoneyOwl Review: Investment, Insurance And Will Writing Rolled Into One

An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.

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