Estate and legacy planning is a critical step that every individual should consider as part of their life planning. There are two broad areas that one should consider - end-of-life planning; and post-death planning.
End-of-life planning is an area that is often overlooked in estate and legacy planning because people tend to assume that they will be able to function normally until their death. However the reality is that as people age, physical and mental capacity become causes for concern. Effective end-of-life planning can help ensure that loved and trusted ones are empowered to care for you, act on your behalf, and make decisions in your best interest if you lose mental or physical capacity.
Providing for mental incapacity – Lasting Power Of Attorney
It is important to empower someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf and in your best interests if you become mentally incapacitated. Losing mental capacity isn't always something that happens suddenly - it can set in over time, such as in Alzheimer's Disease. If you become mentally incapacitated, you will need to apply to the Singapore Courts for appointment of a deputy to make decisions on your behalf. The application process for this can be lengthy, costly and stressful. Therefore, the ideal time to make a Lasting Power of Attorney is now, while you are mentally sound.
Dealing with physical incapacity - general Power of Attorney
If you are physically incapacitated or have trouble moving around, but remain mentally sound, a general Power of Attorney can be useful to empower a trusted one to act on your behalf to carry out repetitious tasks that would ordinarily require you to travel, such as going to the bank to withdraw money, accessing safe deposit boxes, or buying or selling properties.
Post-death planning is critical to ensure that your assets benefit your loved ones, disputes are minimized, and the probate process goes as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Making a Will
If you pass away without a Will (i.e. intestate), your assets will be distributed to your family according to the prescribed distribution rules set out in the Intestate Succession Act, regardless of your personal wishes. You will also need to apply to the Singapore Courts to obtain Letters of Administration, a process that can be time-consuming, incur added costs, and add stress to your already-grieving family.
In contrast, a Will allows you to decide to whom, and in what proportions, your assets will be distributed after your death, including making gifts to friends, organizations, societies and charities. Having a Will also speeds up the probate process and reduces costs.
Wills crystalize upon death, which means that once you pass away, your Will cannot be changed. It's therefore important to work with a lawyer or professional estate planner when preparing your Will so that they can draft your Will carefully and advise you on how to prevent potential issues or disputes that may arise.
It is never too early to write a Will, and you can update your Will as and when you feel the need.
A trust is a division of legal and beneficial ownership of an assets. The Trustee holds legal ownership of the asset and manages it on behalf and for the benefit of the Beneficiary, who has a beneficial entitlement to the asset. This can be useful as a way of controlling how Beneficiaries receive gifts.
You may wish to setup a trust for many reasons, including avoiding taxes or probate, protecting assets from creditors, ring-fencing assets to ensure that they are protected from outsiders marrying into your family, providing for a minor or someone with special needs, providing for elderly parents, regulating how much money is given to someone who manages money poorly, or even simply for benefiting charities and institutions.
Whatever your needs, we can assist you with setting up a trust.
If you pass away with a Will, we can assist you with obtaining a Grant of Probate from the Singapore Courts. This will allow your executor(s) to take control of your estate and distribute it in accordance with your Will.
If you die intestate, we can assist you with obtaining Letters of Administration from the Singapore Courts. This will empower an administrator, appointed by the Courts, to take control of your estate and distribute it in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act.