Whether you were born in Singapore, or you’ve found yourself living on its sunny shores, having your family’s financial affairs in order is an essential must-do task! From guardianship issues surrounding small children, to what will happen to your assets in the case of an unfortunate accident, there’s so much to consider. We spoke to the legal professionals from Oon & Bazul LLP to get the low down on getting organized for the future.
What do I need to consider when writing a Last Will? Will I need to write a Will specifically in Singapore, or is a Will written in another country sufficient?
Your Will can be written and executed in or outside of Singapore. A foreign Will is treated as properly executed if, when it was prepared, it conformed to the laws of the country in which it was written. Your Will should deal with all of your assets, whether in Singapore or otherwise, and also issues relating to guardianship of any children. It must be noted however that in order to deal with your assets here, your executor has to reseal or obtain a Grant of Probate in the Singapore courts.
You should consider carefully the issues of domicile, where your assets are located and/or the actions required to distribute your assets as you intend. You should also consider whether there are any financial or estate duties payable in respect of the assets of your estate, and it’s advisable to seek specific advice from lawyers in those relevant jurisdictions on the best way to structure your family and estate planning in order to fulfil your intentions (as well as to minimise any duties payable). If a significant proportion of your assets are located in Singapore, and you intend to appoint executors and trustees who reside in Singapore, it’s more sensible to have your Will drawn up with the intention that it be effected and acted upon in Singapore. It would then have to be drawn up in accordance with Singapore law and the provisions relating to Wills in Singapore.
How can I get a Will legally prepared? Is it something I can do at home, or do I need to seek the services of a professional?
Strictly speaking, under Singapore law, Wills do not have to be prepared by a solicitor. As long as the Will satisfies the formal requirements provided for under the Wills Act (Cap. 352), it would be considered a valid will under Singapore law. However, any particular or special bequests would be better provided for by lawyers or with proper legal advice. For example, you would likely require assistance from a lawyer to structure special trust arrangements, particularly where there are minors or special dependants involved.
What should I be trying to include in my final Will?
Your Will should revoke all previous Wills, appoint trustees and executors of your estate (do note that there are requirements on the minimum and maximum number of trustees to be appointed), provide for your bequests, and provide for the disposition of the residue of your estate. Your Will should also be signed by you at the end, before two witnesses who are not (and whose spouses are not) beneficiaries of your estate. A Will under Singapore law is revoked upon marriage and a new one will need to be made.
What would happen to my child/children if something happened to both my husband and I? Would our children end up in the custody of Singapore?
In the immediate absence of a caregiver in an unfortunate situation, it is likely that the child will first be placed under the care and protection of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), who will arrange a temporary caregiver.
Insofar as the custody of an infant is concerned, the Guardianship of Infants Act (Cap. 122) provides that, in the absence of any surviving parent or testamentary guardian appointed under a deed or a Will, the Singapore courts may, if it thinks fit, appoint any person who applies to the court to be the guardian of the infant. The Singapore court will determine any such application on the basis of the welfare of the infant as the first and paramount consideration.
In the absence of any person applying to be made the guardian of the infant, a child (below 14 years) or young person (between 14 and 16 years) would be treated as a child or young person in need of care or protection. In the interim, or in the event that no party makes an application to the courts for a guardianship order, the child would be placed in a the temporary care and protection of the MFS, and placed in a children and young person’s home, with the intent to eventually find and appoint a fit person as a legal guardian.
Much would therefore depend on whether there is any person who would apply for guardianship of your child in the event that an unfortunate event occurs. It would be advisable to provide for a testamentary guardian through a suitably drafted Will and testament. Insofar as a testamentary guardian is concerned, a guardian appointed under a Will can seek to make an application to the Singapore courts to be made the guardian of a child under the Will in the event that both the parents pass away. Alternatively, in the absence of a Will, any person who has an interest, for example, a relative or close friend of the family, may with sufficient grounds make an application under the Act to be appointed the legal guardian of the child.
What do I need to consider when writing a Guardianship letter for my child?
First of all, you should appoint a testamentary guardian by deed or Will. In most cases, you would appoint your spouse/surviving parent of the child as the guardian of the infant (in some cases you may also wish to appoint a testamentary guardian to act jointly with your spouse/surviving parent of the child). You would therefore want to consider whether the guardian you intend to appoint would be willing and able to act jointly with your spouse. In addition, you also need to discuss with the proposed guardian the financial, physical and custodial arrangements of your child.
This guide is provided by Oon & Bazul LLP for the purposes of general information on the subject matter traversed. It does not constitute nor is it intended to provide or replace legal advice, a legal opinion or any information intended to address specific matters relevant to you or concerning individual situations. Should you require specific legal advice, you should consult a lawyer of your choice to obtain legal advice and/or assistance.
Established in 2002, Oon & Bazul LLP has grown to become one of the leading commercial law firms in Singapore. The firm has lawyers who are qualified in a number of jurisdictions apart from Singapore and Malaysia, is experienced in advising on all manner of disputes and transactions throughout Asia and is particularly adept at resolving and coordinating matters where multiple jurisdictions are involved. With a focus on timely, effective and commercially sensible solutions, the firm is a dynamic and enterprising legal practice committed to providing its clients with the highest levels of service.