Cre­ate a Liv­ing Will

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pend­ing a grant of pro­bate (le­gal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the va­lid­ity of a will). Your ben­e­fi­cia­ries need to pro­vide the nec­es­sary iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to the insurance com­pany, the death cer­tifi­cate and other doc­u­ments to claim the money.

Make sure you com­plete a nom­i­na­tion form for your insurance pol­icy. This al­lows you to in­di­cate your ben­e­fi­cia­ries and how much each will re­ceive upon your death. If you do not make a nom­i­na­tion for your insurance pol­icy, the pro­ceeds will be dis­trib­uted ac­cord­ing to your will. A liv­ing will or Ad­vanced Med­i­cal Di­rec­tive (AMD) states your de­ci­sion re­gard­ing med­i­cal care, in case you get struck with a ter­mi­nal ill­ness or men­tal in­ca­pac­ity or be­come un­able to com­mu­ni­cate. “For ex­am­ple, when you are put on life sup­port and death is im­mi­nent, with the AMD signed, the doc­tor is able to take you off life sup­port be­cause you made that de­ci­sion ear­lier on,” says Anne.

It is good to let your loved ones know that an AMD has been signed, to avoid po­ten­tial con­flicts over who can turn off your life sup­port. Med­i­cal costs can be in­curred for a long time, which may drain fam­ily fi­nances.

Make a Last­ing Power of At­tor­ney

A Last­ing Power of At­tor­ney (LPA) is a le­gal doc­u­ment that al­lows you to ap­point one or more per­sons to act and make de­ci­sions on your be­half – in mat­ters of fi­nances and daily wel­fare – should you lose men­tal ca­pac­ity be­cause of old age, de­men­tia, Alzheimer’s disease, ill­ness or an ac­ci­dent.

“If you do not have an LPA, your fam­ily must ap­ply to the court for au­thor­ity to make de­ci­sions on your be­half – a time-con­sum­ing and costly process,” says Stephen Chew, prin­ci­pal con­sul­tant with Sum­mit Plan­ners.

You can get an LPA form from the Of­fice of the Pub­lic Guardian (toll-free hot­line: 1800-226-6222) or down­load it from www.pub­lic­guardian.gov.sg.

Get Pro­fes­sional Help

To make es­tate plan­ning eas­ier, work with a fi­nan­cial plan­ner who spe­cialises in es­tate mat­ters, as well as a lawyer. The fi­nan­cial plan­ner can help you to de­ter­mine how much is needed to pro­vide for your loved ones, and draw up a com­pre­hen­sive fi­nan­cial plan. Lawyers can draw up your will and help you with your LPA.

“Speak to some­one who is knowl­edge­able and puts you and your fam­ily’s in­ter­est first. You must be com­fort­able with this per­son be­cause it’s likely to be a long-term re­la­tion­ship,” says Anne.

Here are other is­sues you should con­sider be­fore­hand.

HOW BIG IS YOUR ES­TATE? List all your as­sets and gather all your doc­u­ments – in­clud­ing prop­er­ties, in­vest­ment port­fo­lios and insurance poli­cies – to de­ter­mine your net worth.

Also think about whether there are fixed as­sets that you want to liq­ui­date, or unique prop­er­ties like art or an­tiques that you want to give to spe­cific ben­e­fi­cia­ries. You prob­a­bly won’t want to liq­ui­date an item of sen­ti­men­tal value. You can state in your will that you want the item to be given to a spe­cific per­son.

Be metic­u­lous so you won’t miss any­thing that may be­come a point of con­tention later. You should also tell some­one whom you trust where all your le­gal doc­u­ments are kept.

TALK TO YOUR TRUSTEES AND GUARDIANS. If your chil­dren are mi­nors, you need to iden­tify guardians and trustees in the event that both you and your spouse die at the same time. You should name at least two guardians and two trustees to en­sure ac­count­abil­ity – and in case one of them passes away as well.

The guardian takes care of the wel­fare of the child, while the trus­tee holds and man­ages prop­erty for the ben­e­fit of the child.

“When ap­proach­ing prospec­tive guardians, it’s im­por­tant to re­spect their wishes since it’s a long-term com­mit­ment. One should un­der­stand that it is a priv­i­lege and not a right that some­one, even fam­ily mem­bers, should agree. This is to avoid fu­ture prob­lems like ne­glect, abuse or re­sent­ment,” says Daniel Koh, a psy­chol­o­gist with In­sights Mind Cen­tre.

The prospec­tive guardian should spend time bond­ing with your kids. This can help to de­crease emo­tional dis­tress if the time ever comes for the guardian to take charge of the child, and will help the child cope bet­ter in the fu­ture. If you have al­ready de­cided on the guardians, whether you tell your kids about it be­fore­hand de­pends on how com­fort­able you are with dis­cussing it, adds Daniel.

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