Saturday, January 16, 2010

Making a will: What to look out for

Sat, Jan 16, 2010
The Straits Times

Choice of executors

You want an executor who would be likely - by reason of age or health - to outlive you. Executors should be able to effectively administer the estate and liaise with the beneficiaries, said Mr Adrian Wee, director at law firm Characterist.

So weigh up his educational level, ability to understand legal matters pertaining to the estate, relationship with likely beneficiaries and the level of trust between both of you.

Check on status of assets

It is important to establish whether the property is capable of being bequeathed by way of a will.

For example, real estate held in joint tenancy cannot be disposed of by way of a will and instead passes automatically to the surviving joint owner or owners, said Mr Wee.

And unless a gift of a specific piece of property is desired, it is usually simpler to express the distribution in terms of a percentage of the whole estate.

This is because if the will provides for a gift of a specific property, it will be extremely difficult to trace the proceeds of such a sale, if it had been sold by you later in life, and to ascertain whether the beneficiary should be entitled to the proceeds.

Overseas property

Take care when including overseas property as the law in that country will apply.

It is always prudent to ask a foreign lawyer first whether that property can be distributed by will in the way intended, advised lawyer Amolat Singh from Amolat and Partners.

Pre-empting a challenge

Sometimes a person may not want to give anything to his wife or a particular child.

In this situation, it is prudent to include in the will a specific provision such as: 'I am not giving anything in my will to ABC because I have already given her in my lifetime such of my assets as I think she deserves.'

Or you could provide a nominal sum - $100, for example, said Mr Singh. This eradicates a possible challenge by ABC claiming that he was unfairly left out of the will or that there was pressure from some quarters to cut him out.

Role of witnesses

A will has to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses who are above 21.

Witnesses cannot be beneficiaries in the will, said MsLim Choi Ming, partner at KhattarWong.

When a doctor is necessary

If a will has to be made while you are in a hospital or a hospice, get the doctor to be one of the witnesses so that any challenge to your mental capacity can be eradicated.


Muslims must take note that they are not free to distribute their property as they like and they must comply with the provisions of the Administration of Muslim Law Act, said Mr Singh.

Review your will

Ms Ang Kim Lan, director at Goodwins Law Corp, suggests that you review your will every three to five years or if there is a life-changing event such as a marriage, divorce or birth of another child.

Note that wills are invalidated when a person marries, so a new will must be drawn up.

Lorna Tan

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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