12 Sep - 6 min read
Okay, so perfection doesn’t really exist but let’s see if we can’t get you at least thisclose to it. If you’ve clicked on this link, you’re one of two groups of people: 1) people serious about making a will or 2) people who will read anything in list form – “5 things to train my cat to do”; “3 reasons Putin could be your best friend” or even “10 ways to make something racist when it actually isn’t” are all fair game.
If you fall in group 1, we hope you take something useful from this. If you fall in group 2; we hope you’re at least entertained.
But on to the topic at hand – why should you be interested in making a will? Is it to stop Aunty Clara and Cousin Norma from fighting over the Iranian carpet? Or is it to make sure they know where to find the money for your funeral so you don’t end up in a plywood box in the outskirts? Whilst these are both pretty solid reasons, perhaps the kicker should be this: do you want your hard-earned money and accumulated assets to revert to the government?
If that doesn’t get you moving, we don’t know what will. But before you sit down with your freshly downloaded will template; read through our list of must-knows.
Before you get you started, familiarise yourself with these will-y words:
1. Everything including the kitchen sink: Don’t feel self-conscious if some items in your list of ‘assets’ seem petty; like your China teacup collection or Nintendo Wii game stash. If it’s important to you; it should be included. Don’t worry about the length of your will either. If your beneficiaries really want what’s coming to them; they should be able to sit through the reading of your will. All 596 pages of it.
2. Be specific: There’s nothing worse than finding someone’s will isn’t as clear as it needs to be but there’s just no way to ask them to clarify (we don’t recommend the use of Ouija boards for this purpose). It is also possible that even within your family alone; there are 2-3 people with the same names. List beneficiary and other parties’ names in your will in full and include IC numbers for even more accurate identification. Also, provide complete details of bank account numbers, branches, security boxes and just everything a person will need to access your assets and liabilities. Imagine that you are going away (which you are) and leaving the managing of your affairs to a third party – how much information do you think they will need to ensure they don’t call you 50 times for clarification?
3. Remember, this isn’t a scavenger hunt. As far as possible, state clearly where everything can be found. Nothing is worse than having your valuables kept in such a ‘safe place’ that even the people who should find it, can’t get to it.
4. Keep it together. As in all the requisite and related documents. Bequeathing a house to your children? Keep the deeds close by. Insurance policies? Stick them in the file too. Again, the last thing anyone wants is a document treasure hunt.
5. Unlike in crime; make sure you have credible witnesses. As most people know, your will needs to be witnessed. This means, two people must sign the document once you’re done to attest that it was written by you and you really did intend for it to be the way it is (make sure there aren’t any sneaky guns pointing at your head by beneficiaries). Witnesses are required by law to be three things: not a beneficiary; not mentally-incapacitated; and not under-aged.
6. Save the poetry; be clear in your instructions. You’re not writing Shakespearean prose so save the flowery descriptions and unnecessary rhetoric. Get to the point; list your assets and liabilities; what you want done with them and who is to benefit or make arrangements.
7. There are always ‘leftovers’: Known in formal terms as ‘residual’, there will often be assets that for some reason could not be distributed. Perhaps a beneficiary has passed away or one provision wasn’t clear enough to enable distribution. Or maybe you’re so stinking loaded; you forgot you had a stash of money in a bank account somewhere (one can dream). This may result in some assets be unaccounted for and these will then revert to your estate and become your residual assets, which if not distributed, may end up with the unclaimed monies pile (ie. the government). So make a provision for these leftovers. The clause can be a simple: “All residual assets will be given to my son, John Low (IC no xxxx-xx-xxxx) to be distributed as he sees fit.” This becomes a catch-all for anything you may have forgotten to include as well.
8. Update; update often. Just like a news site, gossip rag and traffic report; wills are only useful when updated accordingly. How often should you update your will? Unlike TMZ, your will only needs to be updated when you undergo a major life event such as marriage, a death of a beneficiary or a change in asset composition (sale of property, stocks, etc.) and not every time Kim Kardashian wears a bikini (phew!).
9. Get a legal eagle’s once over. Though many would tell you that you don’t need a lawyer to write a will (and they’d be perfectly right); it helps to have one. An experienced lawyer in matters of inheritance will be able to advise you on the best methods for disbursement (a trust or a power of attorney) depending on the asset and the beneficiary; what your beneficiaries can expect at the courts of probate and what you can do to speed things up. Such advice you won’t get from an internet template.
10. Guard it in life and death. ‘Over my dead body’ is not a sufficient standard to set when safe-guarding a will. Because essentially, people will be tussling over your dead body for it. Make copies and keep them safely – either with your lawyer; a bank safe deposit box; a trustee or even a copy in all three places. You may think missing wills only happen in movies but you never can guess when life will imitate art.
Did we miss something that caused your beneficiaries to swear a blood feud for the rest of their days? As always; tell us!
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