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Writing a will is not only a good way to stave off unnecessary family drama and protect your legacy, it is also surprisingly straightforward and affordable! Here’s what you need to know about the real cost of will writing in Singapore, including options for safely storing your will, and how to appoint an executor.
Despite being a plot point in countless Hong Kong drama serials popular in the 80s, having a will doesn’t actually create more drama. In real life, it actually has the opposite effect.
Preparing a will actually helps take the emotion out of leaving your legacy behind, allowing you the time and space to calmly plan your worldly affairs. It lays out clear instructions on how your assets should be distributed, to whom, and in what allocations.
A will’s status as a legally binding document tends to nip any brewing quarrels in the bud, as there’s no point fighting over what will ultimately be upheld in court. A will can also be used together with other processes and documents to exert control over your assets after your passing.
However, most wills are executed with far less volatility. Instead of quelling infighting, the majority of wills are used to help straighten out the process of inheritance distribution, bypassing intestate regulations that would kick in should a person pass without leaving a will.
Also, your family may quarrel over the way assets are distributed under Singapore’s intestacy rules, so there’s that.
Hence, you can think of leaving a will as a final gift for your surviving loved ones, providing them with a clearly defined path to follow.
And lest you think that only the wealthy can afford to write one (thanks again, 80s Hong Kong drama serials!), know that writing a will is very affordable. In fact, you can even do it for free!
What makes a will, a will?
Firstly, let’s understand what a will is, and what is required for a will to be valid.
Simply put, a will is a legal document that sets forth how your property and assets should be distributed, as well as instructions for the care of any minor children. You may also choose to include specific instructions for special circumstances, as needed.
The instructions in your will, if valid, will be carried out upon your death. You may appoint an individual or entity as the will’s executor; they will then be responsible for executing your will, among other matters.
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What should a will contain?
A proper will needs to contain the following:
- Your name and personal details (IC number, address, citizenship, gender, etc)
- Name and details of your 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; 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.
And yes, your will must be in writing - oral or audio recordings are not accepted and may be challenged in court.
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What assets are not covered by wills in Singapore?
While a will can be pretty comprehensive, there are some types of assets that it does not cover, such as:
- CPF savings - they are not considered part of your estate, and will be distributed according to prevailing regulations. However, you may make a CPF Nomination so as to ensure your CPF monies are released to your proper beneficiaries.
- Assets held in trust - any assets that are placed in a trust is also not covered by a will. Instead, these assets will be handled according to the terms stipulated by you in the trust.
Related to this topic: Inheritance Planning: 5 Important Things You Should Know
How much does it cost to write a will?
Now that we know what a will is, let’s move on to how much it costs to get one written. The good news is, will writing is quite affordable, costing anywhere from S$0 to S$500
|On your own yourself||Free|
|Using an online template||OCBC: Free
|With the assistance of a lawyer||S$200 to S$500|
Self-written, or with online templates - S$0
Writing a will for free is possible if you undertake the task yourself.
If you’re not too confident of composing a valid will, you can make use of an online template. This, too, will not cost you any money.
Two popular online will writing templates you can use are:
OCBC’s online will template is free-of-charge to use.
As for MoneyOwl, their will writing service is currently being offered for free (usual price S$160.50). However, you’ll need to sign up for their mailing list in order to get a promo code that will unlock the free will writing service.
With the assistance of a lawyer - S$200 to S$500
Or, you could just hire a professional to get your will properly created for you - i.e., written, signed, witnessed, and properly stored or registered (this costs additional - more on that later).
You should expect to pay around S$200 to S$500 for getting a simple will written with assistance from a professional - most commonly, a lawyer.
However, do note that you could also very well be charged more than this range, especially if your requirements are more complex, and/or involve the management of multiple asset types that are worth a large sum of money.
After all, you can’t expect to pay your lawyer just S$500 to oversee the distribution of the S$50 million you’ll be leaving behind
What other costs will you need to consider?
Writing a valid will is just the first step. You’ll also need to make provisions for its proper execution, as well as safely storing it or preserving its contents until the time comes.
Here are some other associated costs to take note of.
|Appointing an executor of your will||Family member or close friend
|Free, gratuity given at your discretion.
Up to 5% of the value of the assets collected, or fees quoted.
|Storing your will||Professional will custody
Bank deposit box
Wills Registry of Singapore
|S$80 to S$100 per annum
From S$200 per annum
S$50 one-time fee (actual copy of will not stored)
Appointing an executor - Free, or up to 5% of the assets collected
As you won’t be around to execute your will, you’ll need to appoint someone else to do it for you.
This individual or party, is known as the executor of the will, and should be indicated as such in the document.
Generally speaking, executors fall into two categories: a trusted person you know, or a professional executor.
Under the trusted person category, you may appoint a family member, distant relative, close friend or someone you trust to fulfil this important role.
There’s no established customs to reimburse this individual for their time and efforts in executing your will, but you may assign a gratuity if you so wish.
As for professional executors, these are usually lawyers, or parties with a high degree of financial knowledge. They are best suited to managing complex instructions regarding the fortune you’ve managed to amass. They should also be adept at helping your beneficiaries avoid regulatory pitfalls (such as estate taxes).
But professional executors aren’t just for the wealthy. Emotions can run high when an inheritance is involved. Having an outsider as an executor may help maintain neutrality during the proceedings, and allow smoother execution of your last wishes.
Again, there are no ‘standard’ rates when it comes to appointing a professional executor, and you should discuss thoroughly the expected fees. However, under the law, a professional executor may collect up to 5% of the total assets collected as reimbursement.
Registering and/or storing your will - From S$50 to S$200
Hopefully, it will be a good, long while before it’s time to act on the contents of your will. But that creates another problem.
After creating your will, you’ll need to safely and securely store it, away from wear and tear (faded ink), loss, damage or meddling (wills can be superseded by updated versions, and it can be a nightmare trying to sort out which version is the binding one.)
Accordingly, your options would be to store it in a bank’s safety deposit vault, or engage a professional will custody service. Both these options will ensure the physical safety of your written will, and can cost up to S$200 or more per year, depending on the storage method you choose.
You can (and should) also register your will with the Wills Registry of Singapore, which creates a backup copy of the contents of your will. This can come in handy as a form of additional verification in case of dispute.
Registering your will can be done for a one-time fee of S$50. However, do note that the actual, original copy of your will is not stored - hence, this method cannot replace storing your will in custody or with a bank.
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