What are the basic rules for writing a will?

Will-writing seems like an easy undertaking until you decide to start writing. Questions would start forming in your head:  What should I write in the will?  Who should I name to inherit my assets in my will? Who should I appoint to manage my estate under my will – who can I trust with such an important  task?

Your will must name the executor of your estate, who will be tasked with the duty of distributing your assets according to the will, and a maximum of four executors may be appointed. Under s.5 of the Wills Act 1959, when you sign your will, two witnesses are required to be present to confirm that you are of sound mind and that you are aware that you are signing a will. Your executor may be a witness as well as a beneficiary under the will. A beneficiary under your will or your spouse cannot be a witness to the will.  Although this would not affect the validity of the will, they will lose their share in the will. You do not need to inform any person of the contents of your will; however, your executor should be informed of where your will is kept.  

Your assets as well as the provisions for your beneficiaries should be clearly listed out in your will. It would be prudent to include a residuary clause so as to avoid the situation of partial intestacy. You may also include instructions to your executor as to your burial rites or desired funeral arrangements.

According to s.4 of the Wills Act 1959, any person over the legal age of 18 years may write a will. The legal requirement is that the person must be mentally sound, in that he/she has voluntarily written the will and understands that his/her assets will be distributed to the named beneficiaries. The most suitable time to write your will would be now so as to safeguard the interests of your loved ones should anything unforeseen and unfortunate happen.

In the light of globalisation and investment opportunities being available overseas and off shore, it is best to seek the advice of professional and experienced will writers. After all, it is always better to be safe than sorry; your loved ones will suffer if your will did not cover all the legal requirements and at worse, held to be invalid by the courts of local or foreign jurisdictions after your demise.

To learn more on:

  • How to draw up a valid will
  • Creating Wills / Legal Instruments that are enforceable in all countries where you hold assets
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About the author

Ms. Kim Khoo

P.J.K, C.L.P., LL.B (Hons) London
Principal Legal Consultant