You met the love of your life, pulled off an Instagram-worthy wedding night and enjoyed a romantic honeymoon in quaint little European towns. All that’s left is to get your spouse the perfect wedding gift, but the problem is – what should you get?
Forget the diamond studded-earrings, or the quintessential pair of mugs engraved with your initials – writing your will is the best wedding gift you can give your spouse.
Death is not something that we like to think about, especially right after a marriage. But have you ever considered how your assets will be distributed after you pass on? Will your spouse be well-provided for? What if you have children, or what if your parents are still around?
Under the ISA, your spouse will be entitled to varying proportions of your estate in different situations:
However, in each of these situations, you may wish to distribute your assets in a different manner – perhaps leave your spouse a greater portion of your assets.
By writing your will, you can:
- Decide who you want to distribute your assets to.
- Decide how you want your assets to be distributed.
- Ensure that you leave your spouse sufficient assets, regardless of the number of immediately family members you have.
What If I’ve Written a Will Prior to My Marriage?
Even if you have written a will before your marriage, you should consider writing a new will. This is because any will written before your marriage will be revoked by law, unless the will clearly states that you expected to be married when the will is executed.
A will written before your marriage will also not be revoked by law if you have appointed a person in your will to distribute certain property, which would otherwise not be distributed on your death, to your family members.
What Kinds of Wills Can I Make with My Spouse?
Apart from an individual will which you can execute entirely on your own, there are 3 types of wills that you should consider making together with your spouse. They are:
- Mutual wills
- Mirror wills
- Joint wills
Such wills would be useful if you and your spouse agree that, both of your assets should be distributed to the surviving partner and your parents or children in the same manner after either one of you passes away.
Mutual wills are commonly made between spouses.
Both you and your spouse will have a separate will, but the content of the wills (e.g. to whom each property is left to) will largely be the same. For instance, both of you may agree that upon your death, you will leave $10,000 each to your children.
To make a mutual will, you and your spouse must agree not to revoke the will without the consent of the other.
Further, your spouse cannot revoke the will even after you pass on. This ensures that both your assets and your spouse’s assets will be distributed to your parents or children in the manner agreed by both of you.
If your spouse tries to revoke the will, he or she can be sued for breach of contract or breach of trust.
Mirror wills refer to the separate wills of two people, each with largely or entirely identical terms to the other.
Unlike mutual wills, there is no agreement not to revoke the will without the consent of the other person. This means that both you and your spouse have the right to change your wills at your own discretion.
Unlike mutual wills, a joint will is made by two (or more) people on one document, where this document will serve as their separate wills.
Upon the death of either party, the surviving spouse will become a trustee and distribute the deceased’s share of the assets in accordance with the will.
Joint wills may also be appropriate if both you and your spouse wish to jointly appoint a third-party to distribute your assets after both your passing.
However, making a joint will may not be as advisable because it is unclear whether your spouse can revoke the joint will after you pass on, and whether the Singapore courts recognise joint wills.
You can read more about mutual wills, joint wills and mirror wills, and their respective advantages in our other article.
How Do I Make a Will?
Requirements for a valid will
There are several requirements that must be satisfied for a will to be valid:
- The will must be in writing.
- You must be at least 21 years old.
- You must sign at the foot of the will.
- Your signature must be witnessed by 2 or more witnesses, who must also sign the will in your presence.
- The 2 main witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of the will, or spouses of the beneficiaries.
Apart from these requirements, the court will also look at whether you had the mental capacity to make the will if its validity is being challenged.
To avoid any argument that you did not have the mental capacity to make the will, you can consider obtaining a letter from a doctor certifying that you are of sound mind before you write your will.
For more information on the validity of a will, please refer to our article on how to make a will.
Hiring a lawyer
Beyond formal requirements, there may be other factors that you should consider when drafting your will.
For instance, you may need to consider appointing a testamentary guardian to care for your minor children, upon either of your passing.
In addition, potential issues may arise when your will is being executed. In the worst-case scenario, the court may choose to distribute your assets differently from what you intended if your will is badly drafted!
For this reason, it is recommended that you hire an experienced lawyer to write your will.
Making your will online
It is also possible for you to write your own will. This is because you are not required to hire a lawyer to draft your will for it to be recognised by the Singapore courts.
In the event you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you may choose to make your will online. Online will-making services are a more affordable and convenient alternative.
What Should I Do After Making a Will?
Store your will safely
Upon making your will, store your will in a safe location to prevent it from becoming lost or damaged over time.
You should also consider storing information on your will, including where it has been kept, with the Wills Registry, so that you or your family members can retrieve the details of your will.
However, note that the Wills Registry will not keep a copy of your will for you.
Keep your will updated
You can also amend your will as you wish as long as the document which amends your will is executed in the same way as a will. If you wish to make a major amendment to your will, you may want to consider discarding your original will and writing a new one.
Again, it is recommended that you hire an experienced lawyer to amend your will, lest your amendments invalidate your entire will.
We all wish to be there for our partners, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. But, life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get.
So, bring all your tear-jerking vows to life by writing your will to provide for your spouse, should the unexpected happen.
Should you require any legal advice on writing a will, please contact a wills lawyer for advice.
This article was first published in Singapore Legal Advice.