Will writing

What's a Will?

A will is a legal document that lets you decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death. Your will lets you say:

  • how your assets will be distributed to the people you choose
  • who you want to look after your children or dependants
  • who you want to carry out your will (an executor)

Your CPF savings will not be covered by a will. You will need to make a CPF nomination if you want to distribute your CPF savings according to your wishes.

Who can make a will

To write a will, you must:

  • be 21 years old and above
  • be of sound mind
  • make your will voluntarily without being forced or taken advantage of by someone else

You can write a will yourself. However, you are encouraged to consult a lawyer if you want to make sure that your will is legally valid, or if your will is likely to be complicated.

 
Muslims can make a will too as long as it is compliant with the Muslim inheritance laws.

How to write a proper Will

Your will should include:

  • a list of all your assets
  • who you want to benefit from your will (your 'beneficiary')
  • how much each beneficiary should receive from your estate
  • who should look after any children under 21 (the 'testamentary guardian')
  • who is going to manage your estate and carry out your wishes after your death (your 'executor')
  • revocation clause to revoke any previous wills and codicils
  • a residuary clause that states how you want to distribute any remainder of your estate.
Choose your executor

There are legal requirements to be an executor. Your executor must

  • be 21 years of age or older
  • be of sound mind
  • not be bankrupt.

An executor can also be named as a beneficiary under your will, as long as they fulfil the legal requirements.

When choosing the executor(s) for your will, think about whether they are able to carry out your wishes. They could be:

  • a family member
  • a friend
  • your husband, wife or partner
  • a professional executor, such as a licensed trust company or a lawyer.
 
It is good practice to appoint an alternative executor in your will, in the event that your main executor is no longer able to manage or distribute your estate according to your wishes.

Get legal advice from a professional if your will is not straightforward, for example:

  • you share a property with someone who is not your spouse
  • you want to leave money or property to a dependant who cannot care for themselves
  • you have several family members who may make a claim on your will, such as a second spouse or children from another marriage
  • you have property or assets overseas
  • you have a business
 
If you need guidance on what to include in a will and how to make sure that your will is valid, engage a lawyer to help you in drafting a will.
Store your will safely

It is important to keep and store your will safely. You can keep your will at your home or store it:

  • in a safe box at home
  • with your lawyer

You should tell your executor(s) or close family members where your will is. If you decide to keep your will in a safe box at home, make sure that your executor(s) know the access code.

Make it easier for your loved ones to find a copy of your will when they need it. You can store information about your will securely online with My Legacy vault.

Alternatively, you can also consider storing information about your will with the Wills Registry. Charges will apply.

Your executor(s) will generally need to have the original will in order to apply for a Grant of Probate

For your will to be legally valid, you must:

  • be 21 years old and above
  • make it voluntarily
  • be of sound mind
  • make sure that your will is printed or handwritten on a paper document
  • sign it in-person at the foot of the will
  • sign it in the presence of 2 witnesses who are both at least 21 years old
  • have it signed by your 2 witnesses, in your presence

Your 2 witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of your will, or spouses of beneficiaries.

How do you deposit a Will into the Will Registry?

How to deposit your Will in the Will Registry

Update or change your will

You should review your will at least every 5 years and after any major change in your life, for example:

  • getting separated or divorced
  • getting married (this cancels any will you made before)
  • having a child
  • moving house
  • if the executor named in the will dies
  • if a beneficiary named in the will dies
 
You're advised to engage a lawyer to help to change or update your will.
Making changes to your will

You cannot amend your will after it's been signed and witnessed. The only way you can change a will is by making an official alteration called a codicil.

You must sign a codicil and get it witnessed in the same way as witnessing a will.

There's no limit on how many codicils you can add to a will.

Writing a new will

For major and substantial changes, you should make a new will.

Your new will should explain that it revokes (officially cancels) all previous wills and codicils. You should destroy your old will by disposing it or tearing it up.

What happens if I pass on without a Will?

If you don't have a will

 
If you die without a will, the estate settlement process can take a longer time and cost more for your family members.

Without a will, your surviving family member(s) will have to apply for a 'Letters of Administration' before they can manage or distribute your estate. This process can require more steps and involve greater legal or administrative costs.

 
If you die without a will, the law determines who gets what.

After obtaining a 'Letters of Administration', the appointed 'administrator' of your estate will have to distribute your estate according to the Intestate Succession Act.

Read more about the Intestate Succession Act.

For Muslims, the Intestate Succession Act does not apply. The distribution of estate will follow the inheritance certificate issued by the Syariah court.

Read more about the Muslim inheritance law at the MUIS website.