If You Die Without a Will, There Could be Trouble and Confusion Because of it
Writing a will is something that majority of people are not too enthusiastic to think about. Even if death has misgivings, you never know when it will come. If it happens without the person giving clear instructions by writing a will, things could be left in disarray. So, if you die without a will because you never made it, you will have no control over your assets after you die.
The interstate succession law greatly varies based on whether you were married, had children, or single. In a lot of cases, the distribution of your property is in divided shares to the heirs you have. This includes your living spouse, uncles, siblings, aunts, nephews, nieces, and distant relatives. In general, when you have no relatives, your estate will be taken by the state.
What Will Happen?
The government of Singapore knows about this issue and the problems that may happen afterward. Therefore, they have created specific laws in place if an individual dies without a will. There are rules outlined as part of the Intestate Succession Act of their government, and they are:
- The living spouse will get everything if there are not parents or children involved
- The children and spouse of the deceased one will get half of their property
- When the only survivors are the children, they each receive everything equally, and if a child dies, the deceased one’s grandchildren receive the same amount of their share
- If the survivors are just siblings of the deceased, their portions are equal, but if they are dead, their children will be entitled to claim their share in the same amount
- Given that the grandparents are the only survivors of the deceased one, they receive equal portions of the estate
- If only the uncles and aunts are the survivors, they take part of the estate in equal shares
- In case there are no survivors, the state takes all of it
The legalities in this area might be confusing, so it is better to clarify them because they are commonly used:
- Estate – Everything that is owned by the person, both personal and land.
- Probate – Administering the deceased person’s estate according to what is instructed in the will. Most of the time, this would include proving in court that the will is valid, collecting the assets of the deceased, liabilities getting liquidated, distribution of property, and paying tax.
- Intestacy – The scenario where distributing and managing of the portion or the whole person’s estate was not part of the will
- Letters of Administration – This is when there is a court order about appointing a person who volunteers to administer the estate of someone who died with no will
Myths About Dying Without a Will
I Need a Will Because the Government is Going to Take Everything if I Die Without it
This is not true because if you do not have a will, the surviving next-of-kin will be the beneficiary according to the Intestate Succession Act. The government is only going to take the rare cases where a next-of-kin does not exist.
My Children Will Get Everything Even if I am Not Married and I Have No Will
False because under the Singapore law, illegitimate children are not entitled from getting a share even if no will was written. In Section 10 under the Legitimacy Act: an illegitimate child will only be entitled to her property if no legitimate child was left behind.
A Lawyer Needs to Read the Will to My Family When I Die
This only happens in the movies and lawyers rarely do this. The common thing that happens is the lawyer whom the executor instructed will handle all of the paperwork. Normally, the beneficiaries and family read the will.
Keeping the Will in a Safe Place
What is important is that your executor can readily access the will. Placing the will in a safe deposit is going to prevent your executor from being able to access. The bank is not going to allow any withdrawal when the account holder dies. The risk involved here about keeping a will in a safe at home is your executor might not be able to recall the codes, especially when many years have passed.
The Executor Can Help Me Decide if My Mental Capacity Completely Declines
A will is only valid when the one who wrote the will dies. If you wish to appoint someone so that decisions can be made on your behalf, you should get a Lasting Power of Attorney.
You Need to Write a Will Even if You are Young
If something happens, your loved ones are provided for.
Even if you average, in case something happens to you, whatever you leave behind is still helpful to those left behind. Writing a will makes sure that the people who rely on you the most will receive something after you die. For example, if you pass away without having a will, the intestacy rules will divide your property between your spouse and children. This could mean your parents will not get anything.
Moreover, if you die at the same time as your spouse, the law assumes the older individual as the one who died first. This means that if you both did not prepare a will and have no children; your assets will be given to your spouse and his/her parents. Your own parents will not get anything.
If You Have a Domestic Partner
Certain rules apply to this situation. Since domestic partnership is not acceptable everywhere, check the laws of where you live to find out how the property distribution will go through. In general, if you have no will, your domestic partner will get the same as a living spouse, which depends on your owned properties.
You Can Appoint a Legal Guardian and Trustee
Writing a will also lets you appoint the caregivers of your kids after you die. In a will, you are allowed to nominate a guardian you want to take care of your minor children. If you do not name a guardian and you and your spouse pass away, the court will be the one to appoint the guardian. It could be someone you do not think is suitable to take care of your child. Besides, you can appoint a trustee who will manage what your children inherited until they are adults.
You Can Include a Residuary Clause
If you die without a will, you cannot do this. In a will, a residuary clause must be present. The purpose of this clause is to “catch-all” the property which is not part of the will. In case a property is left out because it was acquired after it was written, or a gift in the will fails, this is important. By having a residuary clause, the property’s distribution will depend on the will instead of intestacy.
How to Apply as Appointed Administrator if Relative has No Will
You would have to apply to the High Court by making a written letter. However, if someone contests the issue, the application could be “ex parte” so the application notice does not have to belong to anyone else.
The application should use the main format required by Form 20 of High Court Rules. Normally applications can be completed by having a lawyer. With authorization, he or she needs to certify the correctness of the application. He must file the application under the High Court registry closest to where the deceased lived until death.
If someone contests the issue and challenges you about the letters of administration, the process becomes more complex. Your application should be “in the solemn form,” and this means you need to file a claim statement under the normal procedure in the High Court civil proceedings.
The defendants you name will contest the issue. These also include the people who may become entitled to a grant of probate or to be administrators. When this happens, the defendants have the chance to file a defense statement and if they also want to counterclaim.
About the Costs and Time
The approximate time necessary to receive the grant of representation given by the court is longer than not having a will. Assuming that it’s a straightforward issue, the most likely time for the Grant of Probate is two to three months. Getting the letters of administration is about 4 to 5 months when no will was prepared. The time it takes to have the estate distributed will depend on the size, executor’s efficiency, administrators, and if there are children beneficiaries.
Not having a Will Can Break Up Your Family
A huge advantage of making a will is you are able to specifically state how you want your assets to be distributed. For example, you can exactly say who receives your car, your jewelry, your computer, and others. You can include in your will the exact amount of cash each beneficiary is to receive, as well as the property distribution.
The more specific the will is, the smaller the possibility of people arguing about your property when you pass on. That does a lot to keep your family together.
It Does Not Apply to Muslims
The Intestate Succession Act does not apply to Singaporean Muslims because the property distribution is different. It would have domiciled as when his death follows what Muslim law dictates and the Syariah Court. Although, this situation that the government addresses is not a way most people would agree on the distribution of their estate when they die. Therefore, it is pertinent for each person to get an estate planner that could provide service for writing wills. A company that specializes in estate planning can help plan your inheritance and give advice for securing your assets.
Notes of Caution
- A lawyer can give you advice about any entitlement you might have with regards to the property of the deceased one under intestacy. Furthermore, they can assist you when you want to apply as the administrator of the estate.
- Hiring a lawyer can help you write a will and prevent any problems that lead to your intestate death. The lawyer can help you not experience partial intestacy, like if your property was not gifted adequately. They can also help in cases like if a beneficiary included in your will passes away before you. The problem could be that you did not make any alternative provisions in the will for the property.
If you live in Singapore, these are the important points you need to learn about a will. That is why, if you die without a will, there are processes that your loved ones should go through and you do not want this.