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.