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Leave Fond Memories, Not Bitter Fights And Heated Squabbles

Few people have an estate plan. Those with plans may neglect to update them when circumstances change. Some may mistakenly believe that estate planning is reserved for the wealthy, while others find the contemplation of death unpleasant.

Recently, an interesting article was published in The Straits Times (1 October 2023, The article delves into the conflicts and disputes that often “erupt after heads of families die because not enough thought was given to making their wills bulletproof against challenges from disgruntled relatives”.

When we have dedicated decades to our career and raising a family, the ultimate goal of prudent and responsible estate planning should be leaving and preserving a lifetime of fond memories.

Of course, proper estate planning is important to help your family avoid the costs associated with court battles over your assets. However, it also serves as an opportunity to convey and reinforce your values, beliefs, and life lessons.

So, what are the practical considerations when drawing up an estate plan?

Practical Considerations When Drawing Up An Estate Plan

Anyone contemplating doing a proper estate plan will have to consider several issues.  Who do you want your money and property to go to? Will they use the money wisely or will they squander it? Are any of your beneficiaries likely to be made bankrupts, which would then mean your assets would be seized by his or her creditors? Is the money intended to sustain them? If so, for how long? And so on.

When drawing up an estate plan, you might also want your assets to be distributed fairly and equitably whilst simultaneously ensuring that you minimise disputes and maintain harmony among your beneficiaries. In addition, you would also want to minimise “leakages’’ through taxes and probate costs.

Last but by no means least, you would have to identify the persons or professionals to execute the estate plan.

This is why it is always best to consult a professional, most commonly a lawyer, for proper advice.  There are, however, a few things to bear in mind before seeking expert guidance.

How Do I Distribute My Assets?

1)   By Way of a Gift

Possibly the simplest means of transfer of your assets is by way of a gift during your lifetime.  Physical items like property, jewellery, watches, coin collections or other valuable collectibles can be gifted to whoever you wish.  If necessary, a Deed of Gift could be drawn up and properly witnessed so as to avoid any disputes later.

However, when gifting property, there are some points to consider.  For instance, the mortgage should generally have to be fully paid, otherwise the lending bank could raise objections.  If the property is the subject of a CPF charge, it would be best to check with CPF before undertaking the gift.  Note also that stamp duties will still have to be paid.

2)   By Way of a Will

This is probably the most common and convenient method of ensuring your assets go to your intended beneficiaries.

Note that there are certain requirements for a Will to be valid under the Wills Act, such as the person making the Will (the “testator’’) has to be at least 21 years old and of sound mind, the Will has to be in writing and the testator’s signature has to be at the bottom as any writing below the signature will not be valid, and at least two witnesses who are at least 21 years old have to be present to witness the signature of the testator.

Also, note that beneficiaries or spouses of beneficiaries of the Will are prohibited from acting as witnesses and that a Will only come into effect when the testator has passed away.

If you have already gifted certain assets to particular persons during your lifetime or made adequate provisions for them and then wish to exclude those persons from your Will, then, in order to avoid disputes, it would be advisable to include a clause in the Will explaining why they are not being given any part of your estate.

Are there any exceptions to passing on assets through a Will?

A person who purchases a property with another person as joint tenants is not allowed to make a gift of his share of the property through a will when he passes on.

This is because any property purchased by two or more parties as joint tenants operates based on the law of survivorship.  What this means is that when a party who owns a property as a joint tenant with another person passes on, his share of the property is automatically inherited by the other person.  As such, any such property included in a will is not valid as a gift.

Do I need to inform family members about my Will?

You should make sure your family knows where your Will is kept.  Safety is the foremost consideration in deciding where to store your will.  It has to be kept in a safe place where it cannot be easily tampered with or destroyed.

The Wills Registry also allows you to deposit your will information with them which will help your loved ones to gain access to your will.

Maintained by the Singapore Academy of Law, the Wills Registry is a confidential registry where testators can conveniently deposit their Will information for a fee of $50. This information will be kept in the system for 120 years from the date of birth of the person making the Will.

Note however, that details of the Will’s contents are not stored here, only who is the testator, the date of the Will, the party that drew it up and where the Will is kept.

As the Will is an important tool of estate planning, it is advisable to have it drawn up by a professional, with typical fees not being prohibitive and prices starting as low as $150.

Can I change my Will?

A Will can be revoked by a later Will and the date of the Will is, therefore, very critical.  The latest Will would prevail, especially if it contains a clause revoking earlier Wills.

Additionally, a Will is automatically revoked by marriage or re-marriage, but not by divorce. If you happen to get divorced and have named your ex-spouse as a beneficiary, they will continue to be a beneficiary until you decide to make a new Will.

3)   By Way Of A Trust

Assets can be transferred into a legal structure known as a Trust and held by a Trustee as the legal owner for and on behalf and the benefit of the beneficiaries under the Trust.

Trusts can be considered if you have a large estate and wish to control and protect your family’s assets.  You may also want the money held in trust to be invested.  Some other instances when Trusts are considered are when you wish to provide for a child who is a minor, or has special needs, to provide for an adult child who is careless with money or to protect your money in the event of a divorce.

What About Monies In My CPF?

For many of us, money in our Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts can form a significant portion of our assets.  It is important to know that CPF money cannot be distributed by way of a Will.

If you have not made a CPF nomination, the funds will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy, meaning the money will go to your family but not necessarily in the proportions that you intended.

With a nomination, you are free to nominate whoever you wish to receive your CPF and specify the proportions they are to get.

Keep in mind that the same rules regarding the revocation of Wills also apply to CPF. In other words, your nomination is automatically revoked if you marry or remarry, but it is not revoked upon divorce.

How Do I Get Started?

A good place to start is to visit My Legacy ( This is a government agency website that aims to make planning the final stages of life easy and meaningful for both you and your family. You can use the platform to document and share your end-of-life plans.  It also allows you to understand what the steps and information are needed to write a Will, or for estate planning. In addition, you can also make an Advanced Care Plan and prepare for palliative care and caregiver support.


While ensuring the fair and equitable distribution of your assets is an important aspect of estate planning, it is equally important to leave behind fond memories and ensure the emotional well-being among surviving loved ones.

Estate planning offers an opportunity and provide the tools to leave behind fond memories that reflects your personal values and preserve the harmony within the family.

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Credit Counselling Singapore

Published 15 December 2023.