A cornerstone of estate planning

Making a will is a cornerstone of estate planning. If approached properly, it can be a golden opportunity to plan more than just who will get your stuff after you die.

Even the simplest wills can offer invaluable peace of mind to those left behind. It’s bad enough grieving a loss without having to sort out a loved one’s messy finances at the same time. Wills streamline the process by saying out clearly who gets what as they minimize potential infighting among heirs.

What you lose by not having a will is the ability to direct who receives your property and how they receive it. For example, when a person dies without a will (legally, known as intestate), Malaysian law dictates that any children will receive their inheritance outright if they are already above 18 years old, not necessarily what a parent might want. With a will, you can specify that their assets be held in trust until they reach an older age.

A standard will enumerates the assets in an estate and names the beneficiaries, normally the spouse and children, but may also include external parities such as a favoured charity. It allows the testator (the person making the will) to name an executor to make sure the terms of the will are respected. This can be a relative or a friend — anyone you trust to carry out your wishes.

A will also allows for the documentation of other critical provisions, like the naming of guardians for surviving minor children or the creation of a trust to hold and manage assets. You should name a backup guardian or trustee, in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve when the time comes, and a competent estate planner should advise naming a backup to your backup. Finding at least three trusted individuals who will render you this important service may require some deep thought, and some quiet conversations. Alternatively, appointing a trust corporation as your executor may be your best solution, if you are unable to decide on a trusted individual.

One way of keeping things clear and simple is to place your main assets in a revocable living trust, so named because the trustee — the owner of the assets — is alive and retains control of the assets during his or her lifetime. Upon the trustee’s death, the trust becomes irrevocable and the assets are distributed according to the terms established by the trustee, without the involvement of the court.

But while making a will would seem to be a no-brainer, surprisingly few people have them. It is estimated that only about 10 percent of eligible non-Muslim Malaysians would have already written their Wills. This leaves a vast majority who procrastinate or think they do not need one. Interestingly, those who believe they don’t need a Will often say that they do not have many assets to give away. But it should also be realised that the fewer one’s assets, the easier it probably is to make a Will.

Since 1995, will writing services have become readily available to Malaysians. Rockwills Corporation is, of course, the pioneer player in this will-writing industry and it has the expertise to fulfil the needs and requirements of any person who wishes to have his Will drafted.

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Quah Seng Sun has been a Professional Estate Planner with Rockwills Corporation since 2001. However, his ties with Rockwills goes back even further: to 1995 when Rockwills tied up with Ban Hin Lee Bank (BHL Bank) to provide will-writing services to the bank’s customers. He supervised the establishment of the bank’s internal procedures vis-a-vis the will-writing service. To contact Quah Seng Sun, write to ssquah@yahoo.com.

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