Last Wishes: Financial Planning, Will Planning and Funeral Planning in Singapore (2016)

[The book was written by Alfred Chia, Rayney Wong, Darren T K Cheng, Jenny Tay.]

Background

I did not foresee I would be writing this at my biological age; living in a developed state with much peace and general stability, and a healthcare system which is deemed the ‘least imperfect’ in the world (a quote from a 2014 Bloomberg article on Singapore healthcare I think).

But death, accidents, disease, violence, bombs or disaster have no regard for your age, intellect, talent, or your kindness. It simply comes.

Further, I presume we would like our estate (the legal name for your assets after your death) to be wisely distributed or used. Perhaps you might want to bequeath 10% to a charity or make sure your deceased sibling’s children get better financial support. Whatever one has owned prior to death cannot after all be taken into the grave… and thus I return to the topic at hand.

I began on the book because I felt the need to be a basic/secondary source of legal advice to some people I know. [I had acted in a similar capacity before with regards to bankruptcy/debt law. I had also learnt about some elements of insurance coverage, specifically carcinoma-in-situ from deceased finance speaker Dennis Ng’s (吴加万) book. (I think my mother brought his works to my attention). This is broadly why I urge people to gain some basic/rudimentary legal knowledge.] I have likewise seen so many deaths in these last few years.

Review and Notes

Overall the book is a very easy read – roughly I read the Introduction, Chapters 1, 2 and 4 in about half an hour during a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) ride. The font is comparatively big and in bold. It is also the most current book I have found from the National Library Board (NLB); published Mar 2016. Anything more current, then one has to read the latest case judgments and consult a Wills & Probate lawyer.

This review shall limit itself, focusing (mainly) on parts of your estate which cannot be dictated or distributed by your Will. Existing Singaporean laws would take precedence.

  • Immovable property (house/shop/office) under joint tenancy; joint bank accounts; joint investments etc.
  • Assets under your trusteeship
  • Certain Central Provident Fund (CPF) assets
  • Some insurance policies with nominations (I shall not discuss them here as they are beyond my comprehension at this point. Some may be decided by Section 73 of the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act)

Some examples are as follows.

  • In the joint tenancy of say a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat, the right of survivorship is enacted. Ownership is transferred to the remaining joint tenant(s) regardless of your Will.
  • Your CPF within this context includes:
    • (a) Remainder of your Ordinary, Special, Medisave and Retirement Accounts [RA];
    • (b) Remainder from your CPF Life annuity premium;
    • (c) Leftovers from the RA ‘savings deposited with a participating bank or used to buy annuity from an approved insurer’
    • (d) Discounted SingTel (ST) stocks

A nomination is required to guide your distribution of the above 4 items. In the absence of nomination, the distribution would be decided by the Public Trustee (Ministry of Law) under the Intestate Succession Act or Section 112 of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (see the Public Trustee Office, Ministry of Law website for more information). The authors advise wisely that this CPF nomination is not static as circumstances may change. For instance, beneficiaries may pass on before you. Thus, one needs to conduct periodic reviews – this requires discipline, planning and intelligent/trustworthy counsel as necessary.

Hope this post will open up other discussions on related issues like the Advance Medical Directive (AMD) – MOH website was last updated 16 Aug 2013; and I hope that for everyone, each day of life can be cherished and time well spent.

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