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Will Writing

Writing your Will or a loved one’s Will is an important process as you may want to will specific possessions to someone in case the opportunity does not arise.

What to Include in a Will

  • A list of all of your assets. A jointly owned bank account or house cannot be devised by a will.

  • A list of all your liabilities. You must state how you want your debts to be paid off before your assets are distributed to the beneficiaries.

  • The beneficiaries (who to give the assets to) and guardians (for if the beneficiaries are too young), and how much each one is to receive. You may also want to include reserve beneficiaries, in the event of simultaneous death.

  • The executors (to carry out your will). A beneficiary may also be the executor.

  • The advisors. For example, lawyers and accountants.

  • A revocation clause to revoke any and all previous wills.

  • A residuary clause that distributes any remainder of your estate according to your wishes. For example, if a beneficiary dies before you, the asset bequeathed to him becomes the remainder.

Central Provident Fund (CPF) Nomination

As CPF savings are not covered under your will, you must make a CPF nomination if you want your CPF savings to be distributed according to your wishes upon your passing. Each nominee will receive a proportion as specified in your nomination.

Otherwise, your CPF savings will be transferred to the Public Trustee’s Office and distributed according to the rules in the Intestate Succession Act.

What to Do with a Will

You do not strictly need a lawyer to write a will, though it is best to engage one. After writing one, keep a copy in a safe place and let your family members know of its existence. You should also approach the Wills Registry to deposit information of the will. This would greatly smoothen the probate process.

The information kept by the Wills Registry is strictly confidential. Access to such information will be limited to the person making the will, his or her next-of-kin and the relevant lawyers in the will-making process. Information that can be deposited includes:

  • Details of the person making the will

  • Date of the will

  • Details of the person who drew up the will

  • Details of where the will is held

Depositing information with the Wills Registry can be done on the online deposit form at which will require your SingPass. Hardcopy forms are not accepted. A $50 fee is incurred for deposit of information.

Cost of Writing a Will

Engaging a lawyer to write a will involves fees. A range of fees will be charged according to the type and complexity of the will. If you choose to engage non-lawyer services to assist in writing your will, it is not true that these services are priced lower than lawyer services. Given the competitive legal market now, it is possible to engage a lawyer to write a will for approximately the same price as other will-writing services.

Read our guide to will-writing services in Singapore.

How to Revoke a Will

A will is generally revoked by marriage.

A will can be revoked by a new will, a written revocation, or by destroying the old will.

How a Will is Executed: Choosing an Executor

A will is executed by the executor. However, the executor can refuse to execute the will. Therefore, if you are making a will, it is important to consult whomever you wish to appoint as executor beforehand and obtain his consent.

The executor may be a person or a professional trust specialising in wills. The executor applies for probate and administers the estate. He will settle the deceased’s debts and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries according to the will.

A will can be contested by those who dispute its validity, and a court may declare it wholly or partially invalid. It is therefore important to ensure that it complies with the provisions of the Wills Act. If no will is left behind before a person dies, his property would be distributed according to the rules of the Intestate Succession Act.

If you would like to write a will, you may contact a wills lawyer and obtain a quotation from them.

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Will Executor

Depending on your personal circumstances, you may be interested in writing a will. If you have decided to write a will, you can find out more about making a will here. One key consideration in making a will is who you would like to appoint as your executor or executors.

What does an executor do?

An executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased as outlined in his/her will. These include making funeral arrangements, applying to court for a grant of probate (a court order to allow the executor to start the process of disposing of the estate), locating all the relevant assets of the deceased, paying any debts owed by the deceased, including any tax liability incurred, and finally distributing the assets to the beneficiaries under the will. This is a relatively lengthy process, and selecting someone who is financially savvy can be especially helpful for large estates. Executors are considered fiduciaries, which means the law holds them to a particularly exacting standard in ensuring they fully carry out the wishes of the deceased honestly, diligently and fairly.

What are the legal requirements to be an executor?

Several options are available. You can pick an executor who you know personally. An executor can also be a beneficiary under the will, so it is possible to select a spouse or adult child as long as the executor is over 21, not a bankrupt and of sound mind. Alternatively, you could pick a professional executor. This would be either a lawyer or a trust company licensed by MAS. It is possible to have more than one executor, so one may appoint two adult children, or a lawyer and a trusted family friend as joint executors, for example.

What broader considerations should I have when selecting an executor?

Looking at the duties of executors and the options available, we can see that several options are available: a close relative who may be a beneficiary under the will, a trusted family friend who is not a beneficiary under the will, a professional trustee, or some combination involving two or more executors.

Choosing a Close Relative

Being appointed as an executor is an honour, and close relatives may consider it their duty to act as your executor. Crucially, a close relative would often be in the best position to know you and your wishes well, and you would likely have had the chance to ascertain for yourself how trustworthy or competent they are. However, being an executor is also a burden. At a time of mourning, being confronted with various administrative responsibilities and possibly a court appearance may be unduly stressful.

Choosing a Trusted Family Friend

As such, one may instead select a trusted family friend — someone who will certainly be mourning your passing but who will nevertheless be able to remain focussed during a time of sadness and help relieve the burden that would otherwise be placed on family members. On a personal level, this person should be someone you know very well and trust completely. Additionally, this person should ideally be someone who is fond of and concerned for the wellbeing of the beneficiaries under your will. If your will gives discretionary powers to the executors, such as ‘to provide for my minor children’s living expenses and educational needs until they reach the age of 21’, then the executor may need to be someone who knows how you would have wanted your children to be educated, and who also knows your children well enough to know what their precise educational needs are, for example. This would of course especially be a concern when minor children are involved, and you have opted to name a Guardian in your will (who may or may not be the same person as the executor). In such a situation, the character of the executor/guardian and his/her relationship with your child(ren) would be particularly important. Knowing you and the beneficiaries under your will personally is a key advantage that such non-professional executors will have over professional executors like lawyers or trust companies.

Choosing a Professional Executor

However, particularly for larger estates, or wills where complex legal matters arise such as where a trust has been declared, where there is the possibility of children from a previous relationship challenging the validity of the will, or where assets are located overseas, it may be better to opt for a professional executor. A professional executor often has financial expertise and may also be better placed to act as a trustee under any express trust declared under the will, or act on behalf of the estate of the deceased in any legal proceedings. Such financial expertise is especially important where, for example, one of the beneficiaries is a minor and his/her share of the estate must be held on trust and properly invested until it is handed over to him/her at 21. A professional executor will be better placed to deal with any unexpected legal obstacles that may arise too.

Importantly, from a liability perspective, as executors are fiduciaries who owe the beneficiaries under a will extensive duties, they may be asked to make up any shortfall in the estate for funds wrongly disbursed by honest mistake. To ensure that beneficiaries are fully protected, and to avoid exposing close friends and relatives to such liability (especially where they do not have deep pockets), it is often better to select a professional executor who knows precisely how to comply with their duties under the law.

Of course, a professional trustee cannot be expected to know your personal wishes and preferences to the extent that a close relative or friend might. This can partly be remedied by asking for your will to be drafted with a greater degree of specificity or by writing a letter of wishes to help inform the executor of wider considerations and background information they are to note when exercising any discretion expected of them in, for example, apportioning assets between beneficiaries.

Combined Option

Non-professional executors tend to be more familiar with the exact situation of you and your beneficiaries while professional executors are better equipped to carry out their duties. One compromise is appointing joint executors, one of whom can be a professional trustee while the other can be someone known to you personally. In such an arrangement, the professional trustee can take charge of the more complex administrative duties such as dealing with tax liability or locating assets. The non-professional trustee need not appear in court, and need only be consulted where questions of a more personal matter arise, such as whether or not you had any specific funeral preferences.


If you have decided to write a will, selecting an executor or executors will be an important issue that you should spend some time considering. This is a choice that depends on legal, personal and practical considerations, and would of course vary according to your precise personal circumstances. However, if you are looking for a lawyer who can act as your executor, you can visit our directory of Wills and Probate lawyers.

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