Question: 

Hi, I’m Mr. Tan, a 60-year old lecturer working in a private university. Presently, I live in a landed house with my mother, wife, and daughter. They are 75, 55, and 25 years old respectively. Here, my question is, ‘Can I write a simple will to leave behind my property equally to my mother, wife, and daughter?’ 


Answer: 

Of course, the short answer is – ‘Yes, you can’. 

But, with that being said, I will not do so if I’m Mr. Tan. This is because there are many complications that will arise, if I choose to distribute the ownership of my property equally to my mother, wife, and daughter. 

First, they include issues relating to joint ownership of a piece of property. I had already elaborated them in my past article and hence, they will not be the main focus of this article. Typically, it is a lot easier for a property to be sold off in the market if it is owned by a sole owner as compared to a property which is jointly owned by a group of owners.

Why? 

Imagine this. You are one of the five owners of a jointly-owned real estate. Let’s say, you wish to sell off the real estate to a prospective buyer. You will first need to obtain the consent of all the other four joint owners to sell the real estate off at an agreeable price. If any one of these owners refuses the sale, the property, unfortunately, could not be disposed off to the buyer. 

In this light, I’ll highlight on the other complications that may surface, if Mr. Tan passes on after he wrote a will, bequeathing his landed house equally and fairly to his mother, wife, and daughter. They are as follow:


1. If Mr. Tan’s Mother Passes Away 

This could happen in the events of: 


a. Mr. Tan’s will has yet to be fully executed. 

b. Mr. Tan’s mother has received her ⅓ stake in her son’s property. 


In both cases, her ⅓ stake in Mr. Tan’s landed property will be frozen and would form part of her estate. Thus, the question is, ‘Has she written herself a will?’. If the answer is nope, it shall be even more complicated because the estate could possibly be bequeathed to her other children (Mr. Tan’s siblings) in equal shares if Mr. Tan’s father had already passed on. 

Otherwise, her ⅓ stake in the house will be bequeathed in accordance with the following order:

So, if Mr. Tan has two brothers, they shall be administrators and beneficiaries of their mother’s ⅓ stake in the house if Mr. Tan’s mother passes on without a will written. It will take another 2-5 years, on top of the time taken to fully expedite Mr. Tan’s will, to fully unfreeze the ownership title of Mr. Tan’s landed house. 


2. If Mr. Tan’s Wife Passes Away

Likewise, the question is, ‘Has Mr. Tan’s wife wrote herself a will?’ 

If the answer is nope, her ⅓ stake in the landed house would be bequeathed to her daughter and her surviving parents in the following ratios, if she passes on: 


a. ⅔ of it to her daughter 

b. ⅓ of it to her surviving parents, if any. 


So, if Mr. Tan’s wife’s mother is still alive, then, 


a. Her daughter will inherit 5/9 of the house (3/9: dad and 2/9: mom) 

b. Mr. Tan’s wife’s mother will inherit 1/9 of the house. 


By now, I believe you get the picture how messy it is, if Mr. Tan chooses to write a will to split the property ownership to his mother, wife and daughter. But, just before I offer a suggestion to eliminate all of these complications, I’ll share how the property ownership will be splitted if Mr. Tan’s daughter passes on. 


3. If Mr. Tan’s Daughter Passes Away

Then, it really depends on two things: 


a. Has she written herself a will? 

b. Is she single or married? 


Once again, if the answer is no and she passes on, her ⅓ stake of the house will be distributed based on her marital status: 


a. To her mother in full if she is single. 

b. To her mother and her husband in equal shares if she is married. 

c. To her mother, her husband and her kids on the ratio of ¼:¼:½. 


So, if Mr. Tan’s daughter is married and has a child,   


a. Her mother will inherit 5/12 of the house (4/12: Mr. Tan and 1/12: Daughter)

b. Her husband will inherit 1/12 of the house. 

c. Her child will inherit ⅙ of the house. 

d. Her husband will act as a legal guardian to her child, controlling the ⅙ stake. 


The landed house could not be transacted as one of the joint owners is a minor, below the age of 18. 


What if I’m Mr. Tan Today? 

I think it is helpful to first consider what is best and practical for my loved ones. If I’m Mr. Tan, I would probably like to provide: 


a. A permanent place of residence for my mother and my wife. 

b. An inheritance to my daughter. 


In this case, I’ll establish a testamentary trust when writing my will where I’ll: 


a. Allow my mother and wife to reside in the house until their death. 

b. In this period, the trust shall hold onto the title deed of the landed house. 

c. Its title deed shall only be bequeathed to my daughter after their death. 


Hence, I’ll eliminate all issues relating to joint ownership of a property and also, the potential hassles that could arise if any of my beneficiaries passes on in the future. 

The above is just one of the many blindspots that most people tend to overlook when writing a will, especially DIY wills to ‘save cost’. 

A professional estate planner is able to structure a practical and a cost-effective estate plan to help you manage and distribute your estate to your beneficiaries, while reducing complications such as described above. Let’s not be penny wise, pound foolish. Thus, if you are Mr. Tan today, you can start off by filling up your details below to book yourself a 30-minute consultation session with our highly professional estate planners. 



Jocelline Chee
Jocelline Chee

As a Full-time Senior Professional Estate Planner, Jocelline seeks to understand every client’s unique asset holdings and legacy wishes, before recommending a suitable Will and/or Trust structure to meet their needs. She is well-equipped to point out various blindspots in Legacy Planning, that her clients may have. With Jocelline, you can be assured that your legacy planning journey will feel more like having an open-hearted coffee session with a trusted friend, as compared to a formal and awkward session with an equipped advisor.

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