Unforeseeable life events can and do occur, such as death or a crippling illness that might prevent you from making sound decisions about your welfare and finances. As you ease into middle age, it becomes more and more important that you plan your estate before these life events occur. Doing so lets you ensure your affairs are taken care of the way you want, protects the interests of your loved ones, and minimises the emotional toll on them. When planning your estate, you want to consider making 3 things: a will, an Advance Medical Directive (AMD), and a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
Making a will
A will dictates how your estate (such as your savings, and assets like cars, properties and insurance policies) will be distributed among your beneficiaries after your death; your wishes will have to be honoured by those left behind. If you don't have one drawn up, you will be deemed to have died intestate, and your estate will be distributed in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act, which contains fixed rules regulating distribution that may not be aligned with your wishes. It is therefore important to have a will made while you can to protect your interests and the interests of those you love.
While there are no specific formats a will should take, there are some governing principles that make it effective and legally binding:
- Your will must be written, & signed by you & 2 other witnesses who aren't beneficiaries.
- Your will can include:
- A list of all your assets & liabilities (with instructions on how you want to settle them)
- Name of your beneficiaries & what each will receive
- Name of your executors whom you trust to execute your wishes
- Name of a trustee if you have beneficiaries who are young or incapable of handling large sums of money
- A residuary clause that distributes any remainder of your estate not covered above
- A revocation clause
- Once made, a will remains valid unless it is revoked or superseded by a new one. You can replace your will at any time.
- You should review your will regularly, such as:
- When you change your name
- If your executor or trustee is unable to perform his or her duties
- If your beneficiary has a name change or dies
- When you no longer possess any property mentioned in the will or have acquired new ones
- If you're Muslim, distribution of your estate is governed by Muslim inheritance laws. Some of the above points will not apply.
- Remember to make a nomination under the CPF Act. Your nominee shall then be entitled to the funds in your CPF account. Otherwise, it will be distributed based on intestacy laws.
- You don't need a lawyer to make a will, but it's a good idea to seek legal advice when creating one to ensure there is no question as to its validity.
Once you've made your will, you should let your family and executor know where you've kept it.
- For a small fee, you can submit information on your will to the Wills Registry, an online repository that can help parties administer your estate more smoothly upon your passing.
Making an AMD
An AMD is a legal document that informs doctors and family members that you don't want any extraordinary life-sustaining treatment to be used to prolong your life should you become terminally ill and unconscious or incapable of exercising rational judgment. It communicates your wishes for you, and relieves your family members of the burden of making these difficult decisions. There are a few simple steps to making an AMD. You start by obtaining the relevant forms from polyclinics and hospitals or online.
Making an LPA
An LPA is a legal document that allows you to voluntarily appoint someone you trust (the "donee") to make key decisions on your behalf should you lose mental capacity. When you are no longer able to make decisions on your own, your donee can then use the LPA and act for you.
Depending on the powers you wish to grant your donee(s), he or she can then act on your behalf in line with the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA). The 2 areas of powers that you may grant your donee(s) are:
- Personal welfare matters
- Living arrangements
- Social arrangements
- Daily care & medical care
- Property & affairs matters
- Property transactions
- Banking transactions
- Income, CPF, investment & tax
Follow these steps to make an LPA.
- To make an LPA, you must be at least 21 years old, have the mental capacity to make an LPA and not be bankrupt for property & affairs matters.