Losing a loved one is an emotionally challenging experience, and navigating the complexities of handling their assets and liabilities can add further strain, especially if they did not leave behind a will. Estate planning, often overlooked by many, is a critical component of comprehensive financial planning. In Singapore, the absence of a will means that your assets will be distributed according to the rules of intestate succession. But what exactly is intestate succession, and how does it function in Singapore?
Intestate succession refers to the legal framework that governs the distribution of your assets among your loved ones in the event of your passing without a will. Regardless of your financial circumstances or family dynamics, the Intestate Succession Act holds immense significance.
While most individuals prefer to have control over the distribution of their assets after their demise, it is not uncommon for some to pass away without a will. In such situations, the Intestate Succession Act comes into effect, and the court assumes the responsibility of determining how your assets will be allocated. You may refer to our previous article here to know more about the Intestate Succession Act. In this article, we will delve into the consequences of not having a will in place before one’s death.
Not having a will can lead to various consequences with long-lasting implications. Firstly, it may result in an unequal division of assets. Secondly, issues concerning the property may arise. Lastly, the absence of a will can cause delays in asset distribution. Overall, not having a will can result in potential legal complications, emotional distress and logistical challenges that can significantly affect both the dynamics within the family and financial stability of the beneficiaries in the long run. Here are some of the consequences of not having a will:
1. ‘Unequal’ Division of Assets
Without a will, the division of assets is cast in stone and this will likely give rise to feelings of unfairness, anger or resentment if it is not aligned with the beneficiaries’ expectations. For example, a child who sacrificed his/her career to be a carer for the elderly parent may feel unjust that the parent’s assets will be divided equally among their siblings. In such cases, an ‘equal’ division of assets may not be what one intended, and you may want to spend time to discuss the distribution with your children to better manage their expectations.
2. Property Problems
When an individual who solely owns a property passes away without a will, the Intestate Succession Act comes into effect to determine the distribution of the property among the beneficiaries. If one’s spouse and children are alive, then the property will be distributed in shares of 50% to the spouse and the remainder divided equally among the children. This means it is possible that one property will be co-owned by many individuals who may have competing opinions about what to do with the property.
3. Distribution Delays
In the absence of a will, the responsibility falls upon the surviving family members to reach a consensus on who will take up the role of Administrator for the estate. This role is not to be taken lightly as not only does the Administrator need to work on distributing the assets of the deceased according to the Intestate Succession Act, but he is also accountable should there be suspicion of mishandling of the estate. Some family members may be reluctant to take on the role of Administrator, especially if the deceased had strained relationships or known debts. These cases are not uncommon in Singapore courts and often garner public attention. In the absence of a pre-determined Administrator or in situations where disputes arise regarding the appointment, the process is likely to face delays. These delays can be extensive, with some dragging on for years, further prolonging the resolution of the estate.
4. Family disputes
Instances of family rivalries following the death of a wealthy individual are far too common, often making news headlines and capturing public attention. The truth is that such conflicts occur more frequently than we might realise. Siblings can become divided and at odds with each other simply due to disagreements over the distribution of assets. When we pass on, we want to avoid leaving behind a messy estate for our loved ones to scramble after. And because the human experience is never straightforward, our personal and unique family circumstances will play a part in how we want our assets to be distributed. Considerations such as the differing needs of our children, potential exclusions of certain family members from inheritance, or a desire to contribute to a charitable cause, come into play. By addressing these considerations when drafting our will, we can ensure a more orderly and thoughtful distribution of our assets, alleviating potential conflicts and providing clarity for our loved ones.
In conclusion, estate planning is a crucial aspect of financial planning that should never be neglected. In Singapore, intestate succession governs the distribution of assets for those who pass away without a will. Understanding how intestate succession works and its potential implications can help you make informed decisions about your estate plan. By drafting a will and taking proactive steps to manage your assets, you can ensure that your loved ones are taken care of after your passing. Begin your journey with MoneyOwl’s FREE will writing service today. For more information on will writing, you may watch the video below.
Colin Lai, CFP®
Lead, Client Advisory
- To engage MoneyOwl’s will-writing service, you must understand English, be 21 years old and above and be of sound mind. MoneyOwl’s will-writing service is suitable for people who require a simple will where your distribution wishes are relatively simple, and you do not have overseas assets.
- We are unable to assist Muslims in writing their will, as the advice of a Syariah-trained lawyer is required.
- If your will is more complex, you may wish to seek professional legal advice.