Here, let me simplify the process of writing a will by listing down and explaining the 6 elements of a valid will. They are as follows:
Element 1: The Assets
A will document is prepared to manage our estates in accordance with our own wishes in the event of premature death. Such estates include:
- Real estate.
- Cars or other vehicles (motorbike, bike, boats, … etc)
- Bank accounts.
- Stock brokerage accounts.
- Unlisted corporate shares.
- Digital assets & intellectual properties.
- Unnominated insurance policies and EPF.
Element 2: The Beneficiaries
There are three types of beneficiaries:
- Family members who are independent (eg. matured working adults)
- Family members who are dependent (eg. minor child, elderly, OKUs …)
- Non-family members (eg. friends, charities, other partners …)
Each beneficiary has different needs and thus, shall require different ways to do estate planning. For instance, take properties as an example. The distribution to each beneficiary can be immediate or delayed:
A 60-year old father may bequeath a property to his son who is a young working adult (30 years old) as he is trusted to be financially mature.
A 40-year-old father may choose to hold onto a property in a trust after death (testamentary trust) for his minor child (10 years old). His trustee shall hold onto this property until the end of the trust period (when the child hits 30 years old). Upon which, this trustee will hand over the title deed of the property to the child.
Element 3: Executorship
A valid will is one that appoints an executor to process the will document. Here, an executor can be anyone of the following:
- Individual, who is a beneficiary.
- Individual, who is not a beneficiary.
- Trust corporations.
So, who is more suitable to be an executor?
The considerations are as follows:
- Willingness (the executor must be willing to carry out his / her duties).
- Efficiency (there is an administration process to expedite a will).
- Survivability (the executor must be alive to carry out his / her duties).
- Legal (the executor may be “sued” for not carrying out his duties).
For instance, some may “save cost” by naming a family member or members as an executor or joint-executors of a will. Such is practical, if a will is not complex. But, if a will is more extensive, it may be better to nominate a trust corporation as its executor.
Element 4: Guardianship
This is useful if one has beneficiaries who are dependent (minor child, elderly & OKUs). The guardian shall act to protect the interest of these dependents, thus, helping you to achieve your original intention for writing a will.
Element 5: Two Witnesses
A witness is to testify that one who writes a will document is an adult and he or she is of sound mind.
There are two simple rules to abide when choosing witnesses:
- A witness is not a beneficiary of your will.
- A witness does not have to know the contents of your will.
As simple as these rules are, the consequences are serious if they aren’t abided when writing a will. The will document can be challenged or even nullified. This could cause the following:
- Delayed in estate administration and distribution.
- Auctioning of the deceased’s properties (especially those with debt)
Element 6: Safekeeping of a Will Document
The original copy of a will is to be presented to the High Court to be effective. It must be intact and not be “destroyed” or “tampered”. Some may keep their will in a safe deposit box. But, this is not advisable as the safe deposit box would be frozen upon death. It is possible for your beneficiaries to not retrieve the will to have it expedited as they may not have the access to the box’s content.
A popular way to safekeep a will document is to sign up for will custody service. This is because the service is affordable and safe and hence, offering a peace of mind to all who wrote their will documents.
So What’s Next?
Should I write my own will?
Well, that is a personal choice. Most people won’t as they wish to be assured in the smoothness of administration of their estates, which could be worth 6, 7 or even 8 figures and beyond. Many feel that it is risky to “take a chance” with the amount of wealth they have with a “do-it-yourself will” to save cost.
I’m sure you won’t do so either.
Thus, it is better to engage a professional estate planner to help you out in such a process. For a start, you could begin by filling up your details below to book in advance a 30- minute consultation session valued at RM 500.
My promise to you is: “You shall walk away with at least one key idea to secure your family’s financial future.”