OK, so why should you write a will in the first place?

Why do you need a Will?

There are a number of reasons. Firstly, you need to prepare for contingencies. Life is not certain. In the event of an unforeseen occurrence, you will still need to continue to provide for your family and loved ones. Secondly, you have by this age after several years of working, amassed some personal assets such as liquid funds, investments, property etc. In the event of an unforeseen circumstance, your assets will be in limbo. They do not “automatically” pass to your beneficiaries just like that.

A will is needed in order for the transfer and vesting of assets and properties to be legally recognized.

What if you don’t have a Will?

What happens if you don’t write a will? In short, a mess. In the event of your demise without a will, your assets will be frozen. That means no one can deal with your accounts, properties, and other assets. Your estate will be distributed according to the Distribution Act 1958 (and amendments thereto). Your family members will find themselves needing to apply for Letters of Administration, which is, a court order vesting someone with the right to administer the estate of a person who has died without a will (this is also called dying intestate).

This is a cumbersome process and sometimes requires guarantors (also called “sureties”). You would have no control over who is ultimately appointed. There could be difficulties finding such persons to step forward or with the necessary financial means to do so. So not only does the family have to cope with the emotional aspects of bereavement, they now have to worry about all the procedural hurdles as well.

It is much easier to extract Grant of Probate

So as you can see, there are some very clear advantages in making sure that you have a valid will in place. It is cheaper to extract grant of probate (meaning, there is a will) than it is to extract Letters of Administration (where there is no will). It is also faster. No guarantors are required for probate.

You also get to choose and specify clearly who will administer the estate and who should be the rightful guardian of children if any. You can also provide for your beneficiaries in a very specific way and know that your wishes will be carried out. It also serves to avoid bickering and squabbles amongst family members which as we know, can be very damaging. As we have seen all too often, even families can fight bitterly, when money is involved.

Here are some easy tips to help you get started (just note that this applies to non-Muslims only, as Muslim testamentary matters are governed by different laws and procedures).

Easy Guide to Write your Will

1. List your assets
Here’s a tip to get started. First, list out your assets. Include details of bank accounts, properties, businesses, vehicles, jewellery, antiques or other valuables, investments such as shares or other instruments. Note whether these are held in your name or jointly with a spouse or family member. While you are at it, you might as well gather all the supporting documents and place them together in an easy-to-retrieve file or folder.

2. Appoint Executor(s)
Once you have done this, think about who you will name as an Executor in your will. There could be more than 1, you can appoint up to 4. It is best to have more than 1 in fact, so that if that Executor dies or is unwilling to act, there is another. It is important to discuss first, with the person you have chosen. Don’t assume he/she is willing to act. You want to be sure that the person you have chosen is going to do the job properly. You could also appoint a trust corporation instead of a natural person, as the Executor.

3. Who is the beneficiaries
Now, let’s talk about your beneficiaries. This would normally be your immediate family, but it may not necessarily be so depending on circumstances. You are actually free to choose who, or which entity, you wish to leave your assets to. Some people have willed all their assets to charitable or non-profitable organisations, as their children are grown up and have acquired their own wealth. For most folk however, we would want to leave our assets to our family.

4. Signed with two witnesses
Finally, some procedural steps to bear in mind. The will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign it. There are certain rules governing this. The two witnesses cannot be beneficiaries (or spouses of beneficiaries). Next, the will needs to be kept in a safe place. However, not so safe to the point where the beneficiaries cannot find it! There will be no point at all to the exercise if no one can locate the physical will once you have passed on. Make sure you tell your beneficiaries where the will is located.

Should you consider the service of Professional Will Writer

A last point to think about – while there is no provision under statute that invalidates a will, it is best to use the services of a professional will-writing service such as Rockwills, or a legal firm specializing in probate matters. You would not want to save a few ringgit on something this important, at the expense of a valid and workable will. Will-writing is really not something you should try to DIY.

For those who have yet to take the all-important step, make it your personal goal to get started on this process right away. It will give you peace of mind that when it is time, you would not have left any loose ends untied, and comforting the knowledge that your family and loved ones will be taken care of.


KCLau
KCLau

Personal finance author and trainer

    56 replies to "Will Writing for Beginners"

    • Chasi Evanson

      Hi Mr Lau.

      This information is very good and very pertinent for a newbie like me. Thank you so very much. I have recently lost my brother and realise how important it is to write a will.

      May I know what is the approximate cost of writing a will through professionals like Rockwills? I don’t have much property.

      Regards
      Chasi

      • KCLau

        A simple Will by professional will-writer will be around RM500. You can always check with them and they look at your situation, count the clauses needed and provide you a quote.

      • Fenny

        Hi Chasi,

        The will writing fee starts from RM480 for a general will. The fee is based on how comprehensive your will structure is. If you want to find our more, please contact me at my email or watsapp 016-2150313.

        Regards, Fenny
        Senior Rockwills Estate Planner

    • Vivian

      Hi, KC Lau,
      Good article!I have few question about this issue.

      1. I just have a kid and plan to have another kids at future. If i arrange the will right now and do not want to revise as much, how my arrangement make sure the future kids is one of the beneficiaries and my investment assets has no fix amount at the certain time?

      2. Can I invite the executor be the witness? Since i don’t want relatives and friends involved in this P&C topic.

      Rgds,
      Vivian

      • KCLau

        Hi Vivian,
        1. In your Will, you need to specify all future kids will have equal shares.
        2. Normally, executor is one of the beneficiaries. As beneficiary, he/she cannot be the witness. If executor is not beneficiary, then he can be a witness.
        A professional will writer should be able to advice you on this matter.

      • Fenny

        Hi Vivian,

        1. You do not need to rewrite your will even after you have future kids. In your will, you just need to specify “all your children” born to you and your spouse. Remember to name the children’s guardians as well in your will.

        2. You can name a corporation like Rockwills to be your executor. Sometimes, it’s better to appoint a corporation to be an executor instead of individuals because :
        a. Individual may pass on but corporation is perpetual
        b. Corporation like Rockwills is very competent and experienced to handle will and estate administration for testators, therefore speedy process
        c. no bias/favoritism in acting as an executor towards any beneficiaries, thus minimising family disputes

        To know more about setting up a will, kindly contact me at my email or watsapp 016-2150313. Good luck.

        Regards, Fenny
        Senior Rockwills Estate Planner

    • Yap

      Hi Mr Lau,

      This article was very informative. I have some questions about the “will” issue.

      For example, the house title has 4 names-both parents & 2 sons. I named it as (son A) & (son B). For now, parents would like to do a “will” that the property transfer to their sons in future. Because of some dispute between the 2 sons, father’s shares will be transfer to (son A) & mother’s shares transfer to (son B). (son A) has arranged with solicitor firm to do a ‘will”, but (son B) refuse to attend the signing, so my questions are:- (1) Can the “will” still going on without (son B) ? OR (2)Can the ‘will” do differently means the mother’s shares transfer to(son b) doing on their own with other solicitor firm without the father & (son A) present?

      Appreciated so much with your prompt reply. Thank you.

      Best Regards,
      Yap

      • KCLau

        1. Will don’t need the son to “witness” nor agree, nor sign. The parents will do separate Wills and it has nothing to do with wether the beneficiaries agree or not.
        2. Will can be done separately.

        However, in your case, it will still complicate the matter when both sibling Son A and B get half of the property. They will need to agree and sign when it is to be sold in the future date.

      • Fenny

        Yap,

        A will is a personal document. It only needs to be signed by the testator (in this case the father ) and 2 witnesses. It needs not have any permission from Son B.

        Having said that, it’s best to sort out any disputes now if the house were to be sold in the future (when both parents are not here) and it needs both Son A and Son B’s signatures for sale of property.

        Best wishes,
        Rockwills Snr Estate Planner
        016-2150313

    • daisy

      hi, would like to know more about this

    • Yi Jin

      Hi,will i still be able to leave my asset to my daughter who is already a Singaporean?
      But i am a Malaysian.
      Thank you.

      • KCLau

        I think so.

      • Fenny

        Yi Jin,

        You can leave your assets to anyone, Malaysians or foreigners as well as charities.

        Rgds

      • Fenny

        Dear Jin,

        Following your question on leaving your assets to Singaporean, if you want to will your property to her,it’s doable now. The National Land Code in Malaysia provides that foreigners can own and inherit property in Malaysia only after prior approval form the state govt has been obtained. Such approval is subject to terms and conditions as may be specified by the state. The law on levy impose has been changed a few times following prevailing economic situations. Presently there is no such levy but subject to changes in the future.

        It’s best you consult with a licenced professional estate planner to include an additiional clause in your will.

        Or please call 016-2150313 for a Rockwills Estate Planner to service and provide you with free consultation.

        Best of luck.

    • Marvin Foong

      Good read.

      I have found an online will writing service @ http://www.awill.com.my and offerring RM99.90 only and you can instantly print your will in less than 15 minutes.

      Hope this helps:)

    • Karyn

      Thanks for the article. Can I know whether we need to pay a fee yearly for the validity of the will?

      • KCLau

        There shouldn’t be such fee. But there is probably a recurring fee on will custody – where firms charge a fee for safekeeping of your original Wills.

      • Fenny

        Karyn,

        Writing a will is a one-time fee. There’s only a yearly custody fee of RM100 if you opt to keep your will at a custody center like Rockwills Corporation.

        Kindly contact me if you wish to know further. 016-2150313

    • HAZEL HO

      We hv one landed property in KL and one in Kuching, Sarawak. In the event of my death, if with a WILL, my executor can extract the Letter of Probate from Land Office, KL or Amanah Raya, KL for the subsequent steps of document transfer. Tks.

      And if NO WILL, Letter of Administration to be issued by KL which dept?

      Finally, Letter of Probate and Letter of Administration issued in West M’sia, can we do our Kuching property transfer?

      Yr professional advice will be highly appreciated.

      tks

      • KCLau

        Hi Hazel, so sorry that I am not qualified to give you legal advice regarding probate. You will need to check with legal firms that practise probate administration to verify the procedure.

    • Umesh

      Hy Mr Lau,

      My father wants to make a will for his house.he intends to have 3 of us(his sons) as owners.how do i go about this?

      2nd Question,
      My late mother’s jewelry are to be given as per her wish to all 3 of us.I want to make a will of it, how can i proceed ?

      • KCLau

        A Will can state all these wishes. You can engage a professional Will Writer or a lawyer to do this.

        • Umesh

          Thank you Mr.Lau

    • Jane

      Dear Mr.Lau,

      I found some online will writing service offer very competitive price for will writing. May i know is this type of online will writing can be trusted and the will made valid in court?

      Please advise.

      Thanks

      • KCLau

        If you are afraid of the validity, it is best to pay professionals for the advice and verification.

    • Penny

      Some banks offer online will writing, how does it different from engaging the professionals like Rockwills etc. to do it?

      • KCLau

        Personalised advice from the Will-writer.

    • Brenda

      If sister has few properties which she didn’t make a will yet.
      She wish to do by giving all to her 2 children. If she didn’t list out the properties one by one, she can just write in as “both beneficiaries in equal shares upon their attainment of the age of majority” ? If yes,is it means all properties she owned are to be shared equally among the 2 children ?

    • Joseph

      Hi Mr Lau,
      Do we need to appoint other party or parties to act on our behalf to carry out the transfer of names from our demised parent to us even after having appointed a Will Professional to be the Executor. Is this service/responsibility included in the Will Professional’s services.
      Thank you.

      • KCLau

        Still need a lawyer to execute the transfer.

    • Annie

      Hi Mr Lau
      Can I as mother of the beneficiary sign as a witness in the Will.
      Thanks.

      • KCLau

        Beneficiary cannot be the witness.

    • Dinesh

      Thank you!

    • Jen

      Hi Mr. Lau,

      If a land title consists of a mother and a daughter and when the mother passes away, can her biological son come and claim half of the property? Thanks.

      • KCLau

        It depends on whether the mother has a Will. For non-muslim, if there is no Will, the mother’s ownership which is 50% will be distributed according to Distribution Acts, which means her children and spouse will share her portion.

    • Resh

      Hi Mr Lau,
      If a person who have written a will with a professional services passes away, is there any charges to distribute the wealth to the immediate family by the professional services. How much will they charge (%) of the total property.
      Thks

      • KCLau

        That’s known as estate administration fee. The professional charge according to the size of estate administered – around 1-2%

    • Brian

      Dear Mr. Lau, my wife and i have just recently bought an apartment. It is still under construction and is expected to complete by year 2020. At the same time, we have taken a house loan from a bank. For your information , I am a retiree, my wife will retire in 2.5 year time, so the loan was secured with the help of my daughter as a third joint applicants. We did not opted for MRTA. My intention is that I will use my EPF savings to pay the developers and the house loan, place all legal fees, taxes, stamp duties, etc. When I am still around around, there is no problem, as I can withdraw from my EPF account as and when necessary whenever any payment is due. My concern is when I am no longer around, my EPF money must be quickly available to my son, who will be the executor/trustee of a will, for him to make necessary in-time payment. Of course this can be done as naming him as my EPF nominees. But how do I place some legal control (in my will?) over him such that he will perform the important tasks that he is supposed to do? Thanks!

      • KCLau

        Hi Brian,

        In your case, when you nominate your son to receive the EPF money, it is legally his money when you pass away. Even if you state in your Will to ask your son to pay the home loan installment with your EPF money, he can opt not to do that because I don’t think he has the legal obligation to do so. You may talk to an experienced Estate Planner for advise – maybe can setup a living trust to do that.

      • George Koh

        Hi Brian,

        Here is George.
        As KC said, your son can choose not to pay the home loan installment with your EPF money. The EPF money belongs to him and he has the full control of it when you are not around. A will cannot override the EPF nomination.

        By setting up a trust (please take note that this is not unit trust investment), you may impose certain controls on the assets that you will pass to your family members when you are not around.

        Feel free to Rockwills, 016-3700728 to service and obtain consultations from them.

        Thank you very much
        George.
        Associate Estate Planning Practitioner (AEPP)
        Rockwills

        • KCLau

          Hi George, thanks for helping with the answers

    • Lam

      If My dad is drafting his will and appointment 2 executors and 2 separate witnesses. My question can executors also be the will beneficiaries ? Does he need to endorse his will getting stamped and sealed?

      • KCLau

        Yes, executor can be the beneficiaries. But the witnesses cannot be a beneficiaries. There is no need to stamp. You just need to store it well.

    • Lily Cheah

      Dear Mr Lau,
      My aunt has just done a will . And I”m her witness , Will I be in involved into anything
      in the case that something happens to her.

      • KCLau

        For witness, there is no issue, unless there are dispute about the Will validity. Then you will be asked to verify if you witnessed the signing.

    • Joshua

      Mr kc

      Can you comment on online will writing such as iwill.com.my services?

      • KCLau

        I didn’t try though. Any comment from those who experienced it?

    • Yong Shen

      MR KC,
      If my parents wish to write a will and the beneficiaries is me, can I ask my sister to be my witness? And the witness can be 1 person only?

      • KCLau

        In this case, your sister is a potential beneficiaries, but she is excluded in your parents’ Will I guess.
        So better not to have her as witness.

    • Angie

      Can the executors and the witnesses be the same parties

      • KCLau

        don’t ask the executors to be the witness. Conflict of interest.

    • Vincy

      Dear Mr Lau,
      Does a will done in Malaysia has legal power in Australia? I have properties in Australia which i would like to include in the will but i am not sure whether it is better to do the will in Malaysia or in Australia.
      Thank you.

      • KCLau

        Will is according to jurisdiction, if not mistaken. You will need another Will drafted for properties in Australia.

    • YC

      Dear KC,
      I have few concerns on how to write in the will as below :-
      1) Property with mortgage
      2) How to state if certain % from life insurance to be used to clear the housing debts and certain % to be kept for the children
      3) KWSP & Insurance are straight forward right, the will cannot overwrite the nominees in the KWSP and Insurance right?

      • KCLau

        1. Whether it is still mortgaged or not, you better put down a name as beneficiaries.
        2. For insurance benefit, your Will is not suitable to distribute it. You should do it in the policy nomination. But you can state your purpose of the funds from insurance in your Will so your heirs know what to do with the money.
        3. You are right.. KWSP and Insurance nomination supersede Will

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