The Other Reasons Why You Need to Have a Will

Enough literature has mentioned about the need to have a will in place, failing which one’s estate will not be properly divided to whoever one desires to bequest to or that the probate process will take longer and so on so forth.

But what are the ‘real-er’ life implications of not having a will? Let’s look at a few of them.

1. Creating rifts, or more rifts between family members

You are old and aged. Your spouse may or may not be around. And you have some assets; a HDB flat and maybe a private property or two, some jewelleries and cash, amongst others. Not fantastically rich enough to change the lives of those who inherited your estate but enough for the beneficiaries to shave some years off hard work and toil. And life takes you out…

According to the Intestate Succession Act, the spouse gets half your assets and the children gets the other half. If there is no spouse, the children split everything amongst themselves. But whether the spouse is around or not, is not important here. What if there are children who come up and demand a bigger share of the estate because they spent more time taking care of you or they gave you more allowances or you had stayed with them and ‘used’ more of their resources while you were around, etc. Now the Intestate Succession Act will split everything equally and evenly and so whether it’s the ‘more’ or the ‘less’ that the siblings are quibbling about, it’s up to them to sort it out themselves. And more often than not, no matter which way the matter is resolved, blood will be spilt and relationships will be strained. The eventual outcome; they lost a parent, gotten some ‘spoils’ and lose some siblings. In short, be them winners or losers in the money tussle, everybody loses!

Consider another scenario; You have children and you have grand-children, of which you have a favourite son, a most-in-need-of-help daughter or most doted on grand child? All your loved ones will still love you, no matter how much money you leave behind for this group of loved ones but wouldn’t you want to leave more to them? U had doted on and gave more attention to these group of loved ones but when you are gone, most probably this privilege will go together with you. Their siblings most probably won’t offer or extend the same kind of privilege or help to them!

That’s why it is important to understand why you want to leave what to who and make a will to indicate your wishes. Especially in the event that it’s not an equal distribution to the beneficiaries, you would want to gather everybody and openly express this view and thoughts to the family, to get a consensus about your wishes. It’s not to seek opinion with regard to the distribution but more of letting the family members know of your intentions. In any management, treating everybody fairly doesn’t necessary mean treating everybody equally…

Be firm about the way you want the distribution to be done because ‘don’t know’, ‘don’t care’, ‘don’t do’ doesn’t mean ‘don’t happen’! You don’t know how the family members will react if the distribution is not equal but you thought it should be OK because everybody is so loving to each another while you are around. (Aside on the topic of fairness vs loving-ness; Have you ever encountered the instances of walking into a shop, saw an item that you like, including the price, tried it or fiddled with it and decided to make the purchase. But at the cashier, you are informed by the assistant that she had priced the item wrongly and that it actually cost more than the price that was indicated. And in most times, if the fondness is a lot and the marginal difference is material, you fly into a ruckus and you try to argue your way through, just so as to get the item at the initial price. You are a loving person, no doubt. But at that moment in time, you reacted the way you react because you had felt it was ‘unfair’!) 

And so you don’t really care because you had thought that so long as you had done your part, that will be enough. And what happens after you are gone, you can’t dictate much. As such, you don’t do anything to address this issue that you thought may not come up. But when the eventual happens (your passing, that is), it’s highly likely that there will be some family members who, after knowing the contents of the will, will not be pleased with the way things are distributed. Cos fairness and equality are subjective. Don’t think so? Try asking husbands and wives or couples who are separating; everybody will tell you that they are right and the other party is in the wrong. It’s just human nature; people magnify the ‘rights’ and downplay the ‘wrongs’.

Let me reiterate my point again… Make a will, if you don’t want to leave the slightest possibility of the family falling apart due to your passing.

2. Creating moral dilemmas for beneficiaries

You had parents and you have wife and kids but you have no will in place. What happens if life were to take you out prematurely? Again, according to the Intestate Succession Act, half of what you have goes to your wife and half goes to your kids. And according to the Act, nothing will go to your parents. It’s not that your parents are entirely dependent on you but they are also not the wealthiest of parents around either. At an age where retirement has already set in or looming, every cent does count.

And now, no matter how capable your spouse is, the pain of losing a loved one is devastating and immeasurable. Money left behind by the deceased spouse doesn’t change the fact that the surviving partner has to grief the loss and yet play the father and mother role; it just numbs the pain. This is akin to a strong swimmer capsized in the middle of the sea, with no shore in sight. Whatever float that the swimmer can find, can hang onto, doesn’t change the fact that he is stuck in the middle of nowhere but it sure increases his chances of survival.

By the same token, every additional amount that the widow or widower gets, doesn’t change the fact that his or her spouse is gone but it sure does increase the chances of getting by in life and getting the better of life eventually. However, the in-laws are not in the best of shapes too.

And what is this poor widow or widower going to do? Take out a certain amount of the estate left behind by his or her spouse and give it to the in-laws but risk the chances of running out of funds before adjusting to life without the life partner, both emotionally and financially? Or turn a blind eye to the poor in-laws and leave them to fend for themselves but as a result, forgone and forsake the virtues and teachings of his or her own values and teachings to the kids of filial piety and humanity?

So make a will please. And make that decision for your spouse; don’t leave it to him or her and don’t burden him or her with this moral dilemma! It’s always easy to answer a theoretical question from a outside-looking-in perspective but when faced with the actual thing, what makes us think that we will be able to think soberly, act rationally and not get clouded emotionally? And by the same token, get your spouse to make a will too! For if this thing happened to you instead of your spouse, what makes u think u can second-guess how much your spouse wants to leave for his or her parents while balancing the ‘give-how-much-so-as-not-to-feel-lousy’ feel?

3. Letting friends down

Your friend had loaned you some money and you are repaying it over a certain period of time. But before you finish this obligation to your friend, life takes you out. Now this poor friend of yours, not only is he facing the possibility of not getting back the remainder of the loan, he also has to (possibly) help with the funeral, attend your wake and give the customary ‘white gold’ (aka donations to the deceased’s family)! How’s that for quadruple whammy?

And even if he has a IOU from you, can you imagine how hard it will be for him to approach your next-of-kin for the outstanding amount, especially after your death and more so if his finances at home is not in good shape. (Besides, when friends lend friends money, who bothers with writing IOUs for each another?!?!)

By coming up with the loan, friends are already doing us the favour to meet our financial obligations. So let’s not do them this disfavour of not returning them their hard-earned money if life takes us out. Again, just do a will and leave behind something for the friend. When it comes to lending money, it has been said that be prepared to lose whatever you can afford not to take back. And so, I am pretty sure that this friend, who knew the risks but yet still lent you the money, will not shortchange your family and next-of-kin with the amount, in the event life takes you out and the willed money to him is more than the outstanding amount!

In conclusion, I sincerely implore you readers to make a will, for the benefit of themselves and others. Don’t leave things to chance and don’t leave things to trust. People always say they trust so-and-so, who-and-who, to do this-and-that but more often than not, we end up disappointed by the expectations that we had. I say, ‘Trust is good but Control is better!

If you require advice on your financial/ insurance needs, please contact Soon Ai Huat at 97479874.