Do I need a lawyer to witness my signing of my Will to make it Valid in law?
The answer is NO. To make a Will valid, you just need to ensure the following :
- That your Will is written clearly as to your wishes on how to distribute your assets;
- That you appoint at least one Executor to carry out your wishes in our Will, usually from the list of your Beneficiaries;
- That you sign your Will on every page of your Will document and dating each page, in your own handwriting.
- That when you sign your Will, it must be in the presence of two (2) witnesses, at the same time. Not at different times.
- That your two (2) witnesses cannot be :
- Any of your beneficiaries;
- A spouse or fiancé / fiancee, of any of your beneficiaries;
- A Civil partner, which could arguably be a lover or longtime girlfriend / boyfriend of any of your beneficiaries.
If one of my 2 witnesses is a beneficiary or a spouse of a beneficiary, is the Will still valid ?
That beneficiary’s share will then be distributed proportionately between the remaining beneficiaries, in accordance with their respective percentages.
The Executor that you name to carry out the wishes in your Will has the responsibility to take care of the affairs of your Estate, which includes :
- Bringing your Will, after your death, to a lawyer who will advise him/her/them on the steps they need to take to “prove” the Will and obtain a Grant of Probate, which is essentially an order of a court that the Executor is legally recognized and is therefore endorsed to act on behalf of your Estate.
- Giving proper accounting of the assets and liabilities of your Estate. Recording the expenses involved in carrying out your wishes, like the legal costs for hiring the lawyer to obtain the Grant of Probate, the legal and other costs involved in carrying out your wishes as stated in your Will.
- Carry out your wishes to the last details, including transferring your properties to your beneficiaries or selling assets for distribution of the sale proceeds, for example.
Proving a Will and obtaining the corresponding Grant of Probate from a Court of Law, is an essential step for an Executor to take.
A bank, an insurance company or any 3rd party buyer of your assets don’t want to wonder whether your Executor was validly appointed. They rather leave it to a Court of Law, with all its abilities to check the validity of your Will, to endorse your Executor as the properly appointed person, who can act on behalf of your estate.
The Grant of Probate is the proof that the appointment of your Executor and also your Will, have been endorsed by a Court of Law. With that Grant of Probate, a bank, an insurance company, the Land Registry, Vehicle Registry and any 3rd party buyer can safely accept that the Executor’s signature on a sale and transfer document, will be legally binding.
This is a good example of due process in a systematic society, ruled by laws.
Who should I name as my executor or executors ?
Obviously your executor(s) will have to do work for the estate.
Certainly it is usual to appoint your Executor(s) from your list of beneficiaries. After all, they are benefitting from your Estate and should not have any complaint about doing the work.
But if you are appointing someone who is not a beneficiary, it may be best to discuss it with him first. There must be compelling reasons for a non-beneficiary to want to help, like a sibling with a strong bond with you or your very good friend. Obviously an executor must be someone who you trust to be an honest person.
One misconception that some people may have is that once you make a provision to ‘give’ an asset to a beneficiary or beneficiaries in a Will, you can no longer sell it.
That is not true ! A Will takes effect ONLY after the Will maker has passed away. Your wishes are only wishes, while you are alive. Your beneficiary is not entitled to any part or portion of your assets, while you are still alive. You can amend or revise your Will, at any time, before death.
How should I state the distribution of my assets to each of my Beneficiaries in my Will ?
There are various ways to state your distribution of your assets :
- State that a specific piece of property goes to one specific person.
For e.g., you want to give your car to your son or you want to give all the balance remaining money in a bank account to your wife.
For e.g. you want to give a specific real estate property to your daughter, to be transferred to her.
- State that a specific piece of property is to be shared in percentages between several persons.
For e.g., you want all the balance remaining monies in all your bank accounts to be divided between several persons, in percentages.
For e.g., you have a fully paid up real estate property and you want your wife and a son to own it together, in equal or unequal shares. As you specify.
But does it mean that if your real estate property is attached with a mortgage, you cannot specify that property in your Will, to your beneficiaries ?
The clauses in our template are drafted to include and ensure flexibilities.
Do I need to specify the balance money I have in each of my bank accounts or fixed deposits, in my Will, if I want my beneficiaries to have them?
Our templates provide for your distribution of whatever balance you have in your bank accounts, in percentages. That means you don’t need to bother with exact balances in your bank accounts.
Real Estate Property (Co-owned property)
A real estate property which is co-owned in a “Joint-Tenants” type of ownership will pass on to the other co-owner or co-owners, upon the death of one owner. Joint-tenancy is usually the choice of ownership, for husbands and wives, or even with children.
Therefore, a property held as “Joint-tenants” cannot be effectively stipulated in a Will to be given to a beneficiary, after your death. The property will automatically belong to the survivor(s). This is known as the “Right of Survivorship”.
However, it is still safe, even if you are not sure if a real estate property is held as “Joint-tenants” with your co-owner(s), to make wishes on how your share in that property is to be distributed to your beneficiaries. In a worse case scenario, your statement in your will for that property will just be ignored. Your statement in this case will not affect the rights of your co-owner who is your Joint-tenant.
However, if you co-own a real estate property with co-owners as “Tenants-in-Common”, you can bequeath your share in that real estate property to your beneficiaries, For this type of ownership of a real estate property, the surviving co-owner(s), are not automatically entitled to your share in that property. Unlike, a real estate property held in joint-tenancy, there is no “Right of Survivorship”.
Do you need to know your specific share in a real estate property, held as Tenants-in-Common, with other co-owners ?
How do you check whether a real estate property is held as Joint-tenants or Tenants-in-Common with your co-owner(s)?
Can I distribute a real estate property which has a mortgage loan which has not been repaid fully ?
Therefore, if it is IMPORTANT to you that the home is kept by your spouse and/or children, it may be advisable that you buy a mortgage insurance to ensure that the loan of that mortgage becomes fully paid, after your death. In this way, the bank will have no reason to insist on any loan repayment as the insurer will pay off the outstanding loan.
Joint-Account Bank Accounts
So if that is not your intention, and you wish to distribute monies in a Joint Account to other beneficiaries, you need to withdraw the monies and redeposit your monies in a bank account in your sole name.
Insurance policies and pensions
So for those insurance policies where you had made nominations of beneficiaries, you cannot side-step the nominations and make new nominations in your Will.
But does it make your Will invalid if you did ? No. That statement in your Will for that particular insurance policy will just be ignored. It does not make your Will invalid.
Overseas Real Estate Property
If you have doubts, you should check with a tax expert in that country where your overseas real estate property is situated.
Revocation of a will
So if you had made a Will before marriage, that Will, as at the date of your registration of marriage, be rendered invalid.
Or in a country which recognizes a civil partnership, the question of when your previous Will is considered invalidated, will be a more difficult question of when in fact and in law, you are deemed to have formed the civil partnership.
But in any event, at some point in time, after your marriage, you should consider making a fresh Will.
A Will made at an earlier date, is deemed revoked by a new Will made at a later date. The Will with the latest date will be the only valid Will.
In any event, our template make a specific statement that all and any Will previously made will be invalidated.
Is it possible to just add new clauses to an existing Will made previously ?
However, even lawyers do not encourage the creation of codicils as they leave and begs the question as to how many codicils you may have made in your lifetime.
It is much neater and clearer for your beneficiaries if you just make a new fresh Will, everytime you review your Will.
At WillsSmith.com, we encourage our users to review their Will, whenever, their circumstances change or they have acquired new assets.
Every review of a Will at a law firm would mean the making a new Will and paying a full fee for the service. At WillsSmith.com, you can review your Will, for unlimited number of times (within a subscription period) for only a small fee.
What are the benefits of online wills service?
Your lawyer does not work on weekends and even if he does, he will have to charge you a premium if he meets you on a weekend.
You do not need to take your precious leave days to visit your lawyer to discuss the contents of your Will and then take a second leave day to sign it.
Will my family be informed of my will? After I sign, can I scan and upload into your system?
Of course if you choose to inform your loved ones of the existence or contents of your Will, it will mean that you have a very open relationship with your loved ones.
In any event, our office allows anyone, who proves that he or she is the executor(s) of your Will and produces a death certificate, to apply for a copy of your Will, if you had uploaded a signed copy into our Archives facility.
Is WillsSmith.com a law firm?
Certainly, our target audience are persons with assets of a few real estate properties, the usual bank accounts, investments in stocks and cars.
If you are a business owner or is a director and shareholder in a Company you operate, you may wish to seek full legal advice from your lawyer.
What are the processes to safeguard of system?
Some of the security measures we have taken:
– All sections of the website use SSL digital ID to maximize security as you access and use our system. Our members will be able to see the closed padlock icon in their web browser. Data transmission to our website are all encrypted.
– All passwords are encrypted in the underlying database using an industry-standard encryption routine.
– Each individual gets their own user name and password, where not even the staff can view their password
Your data are securely stored at Pacnet Singapore Data Center (SGCS2). It is a single-tenant, free standing Tier III facility, certified by Uptime Institute, within its own secure compound. This facility is designed to comply with the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s stringent security guidelines for data centers confirmed by independent, third party Threat Vulnerability Risk Assessment (TVRA).
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