What is Legacy & Estate Planning?
A Thorough Comparison & Analysis
Whether you call it estate planning or legacy planning, it is often far from simple to transfer wealth from estate to beneficiary. It can take months, sometimes years, to deal with the probate process alone.
You would want your family to inherit the fruits of your success after a lifetime of achievement. You may want to ensure fair distribution among your chosen beneficiaries or facilitate the payment of estate tax without liquidating your family business, property owned or any other valuable assets.
These are the factors that go hand in hand with wealth accumulation and can be handled efficiently by proper Legacy and Estate planning.
Table of Contents
What is Legacy & Estate Planning all about?
It’s a question that most people think about in their lives at least once. Maybe it’s the adventurous sense of spirit that takes you all over the world. Or perhaps it’s the incredible goodness that you give your loved ones. But what about the impact with your more tangible assets you want to have? This is where legacy and estate planning can be put into play.
Legacy and Estate Planning is at the top tier of Financial Planning. However, most of us have not achieve the lower tier of: “High Wealth Accumulation”, “Wealth Accumulation” and “Risk Management” which indirectly means that we hardly have any Legacy to plan for.
Legacy & Estate Planning allows you to articulate create and implement a road map to turn your resources effectively to your loved ones.
What is the difference between Legacy & Estate Planning?
Legacy Planning is about giving a sense of purpose to your estate plan. This may also include, in addition to family beneficiaries, philanthropic goals.
Estate Planning ensures that you have a plan for potential incapacity or death and that your assets are allocated according to your wishes.
What are the benefits of having a Legacy Plan?
While we usually associate the word “estate” with the ultra-rich, the estate planning is not just for the rich. Everyone can benefit from having an estate plan, regardless of family dynamics or financial status. Nonetheless, most people have neglected to implement these plans
Considerations during Legacy Planning
You can better plan out your finances after knowing what is your assets and liabilities that you have.
Factors to consider when crafting your Legacy Plan
This will give you the opportunity to evaluate how your legacy and gifts from your estate plan are likely to affect them.
- What are the main factors in shaping your legacy?
- What is the legacy you’ve created?
- How are you going to remember? Do you like it?
- Who: Intend to transfer to a charitable organisation or pass down to family
- How Much: What is the amount to be distributed
- Heirs with foreign nationality
- Complex family structure
- Investment/property properties with tax liabilities or assets offshore or several jurisdictions
- Assets with joint ownership/account
- Ways of distribution:
- By Will or some type of testamentary documents/instructions (subject to customs or local laws)
- By title (account holder) or name of the beneficiary
- For family business
5 key Estate Planning tools for Legacy Planning
Know how does Wills, Trusts, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Life Insurance and Gifts can work together to help you plan your estate.
LAST WILL is a legally binding document that distributes your assets and assigns upon your death to executors, heirs and guardians. While people tend to think that planning a will is morbid, it is about life and ensuring that your assets support the people you love.
When you pass away without a will, the Laws of Intestacy in Singapore will decide what happens with your property and assets. The spouse or children will usually be the first to inherit the assets; if you are not married and have no children, other relatives may be the recipient of your estate.
Not having a will that clearly indicates how you intend to divide your assets will mean that your final wishes will be dismissed.
Trust Deed is the documentation of the Trust. There are various types of trusts that are designed to meet a variety of objectives for estate planning.
Others serve one purpose, while others serve multiple purposes. Some are set to work while you’re alive, while others only work after you’ve passed away. Some can be modified, some (irrevocable) are irreversible.
In general, trusts can be divided into four basic types:
You make rules and guidelines when you create a trust that explain what to do with the trusted assets To insure that the trust works best to meet your purposes, you usually decide which form of trust should suit your goals, follow the guidelines for that type of trust, and ensure that all legal requirements are met over time.
Insurance may be used to pay taxes on your assets to prevent your descendants from selling the property to pay taxes. You can also set up a life insurance trust to be the policy beneficiary so that as part of the estate the death benefits will not be charged.
Normally, when a person passes away with a will, the estate of the deceased will be allocated by the appointed executor(s) of the will to the beneficiaries according to the will.
However if you have a nominee under your life insurance policy, depending on whether the nomination is a trust nomination or a revocable nomination, the insurance proceeds may or may not be allocated according to your will, as there is a nominee who has the right to receive the proceeds.
If you plan to allocate the insurance proceeds through a will, you may have to override your insurance nomination, and whether you have made a trust nomination or a revocable nomination again depends on the chance.
On the other hand, if you have not nominated a nominee or specified in your will for the distribution of the insurance proceeds, the insurance proceeds will go to your immediate family members such as your spouse, parent, infant, brother, nephew or niece.
Attorney’s financial authority appoints someone to administer the financial affairs.
It is an easy, affordable and secure way to ensure that if you become disabled and unable to make decisions, you have a strategy for financial decisions.
If you’re married, you may not think you need an attorney’s financial power. The fact is, designating one can make life much easier for your family if you are unable to make financial decisions on your behalf.
Two types of powers of attorney are:
Standard Durable Power of Attorney – It authorizes a designated person to act on your behalf immediately even if you are incompetent or incapacitated temporarily or permanently. If you pass, it form of the authorization will cease.
Springing Power of Attorney – It authorizes an attorney to act on your behalf only if such conditions are met, as defined by a medical doctor, such as becoming permanently disabled.
In having a clear strategy and setting priorities, incorporating your charitable giving as part of your financial plan means you can donate wisely, which does not always mean simply giving more.
And... What if you do not have any of the above Legacy Planning tools?
Well, the assets that you possess, it will go into Probate.
Probate is the court’s method of determining who is getting the assets of the deceased. It is a lengthy, public process that delays the transfer of properties, and if one or more people challenge the will, it can cause conflict.
Life Insurance Nomination
In your will, you can declare your insurance policies. In other words, you may include the insurance policies that you acquired in your will.
It is useful for the executor(s) (person(s) carrying out the orders of your will) and any named beneficiaries (persons receiving your inheritance from a will) of your insurance policies to quickly identify the insurance policies you have taken out.
If the nominees of your insurance policies are the same as the beneficiaries of your will, listing your insurance policies in your Will, will make it easier for them to find details on the policy, and contact the appropriate insurance company upon your death.
Any named beneficiaries of your insurance policies may then contact the insurance company directly after your death to receive any payouts from the policies.
Generally speaking, life insurance policies and health policies can be included in your will (as explained above). However, as discussed below, it is advisable not to include insurance policies that have trust nominations.
Usually, when a person passes away with a will, the estate of the person will be distributed by the named executor(s) to the beneficiaries according to the will.
If you wish to distribute your insurance proceeds through a will, you may have to override your insurance nomination, and whether you have made a trust nomination or a revocable nomination again depends on the possibility.
On the other hand, if you have not nominated a nominee or provided in your will for the distribution of the insurance proceeds, the insurance company may pay the insurance proceeds to any appropriate claimant without any Grant of Probate or Grant of Administrative Letters.
The proper claimant maybe your will executor or your immediate family members such as your spouse, parent, child, sibling, nephew or niece.
In this case, the insurance proceeds will be subject to trial proceedings and will form part of your assets, where the court will decide on the rightful recipient.
If you have a will, the proceeds of the insurance will be distributed by the will
If you do not have a will, the proceeds of the insurance will be distributed according to intestate law
There are two types of nominations you can make for your insurance policies:
Trust Nomination (also referred to as an irrevocable nomination)
A statutory trust is created for the benefit of the designated beneficiaries, such as your spouse or children, on the proceeds of a life insurance policy.
Trust is established over the proceeds of the insurance. It means that upon the death a trustee will receive the proceeds from the insurance policy, who will then compensate the nominees or beneficiaries.
This also means you have “given” away from the benefits of your policy to your beneficiaries, so using a will, you can not override the nomination of trust.
Remember, the insurance proceeds aren’t part of your estate after death. That means that your executor(s) will not distribute the insurance proceeds according to your will upon your death (as mentioned above).
A trust appointment may, however, be revoked with the prior written consent of the trustee or nominee.
In your insurance policy, you can make a revocable nomination under the favour of any person in such a way that the insurance proceeds will go to that nominee upon death.
A revocable nomination is a nomination that can be revoked, which means you can change the nominee who will obtain the insurance proceeds if you wish.
How do I revoke a nomination?
The nomination can either be revoked by another nomination under the same insurance policy or if you enforce a will specifying how the insurance proceeds are to be distributed.
Under the new insurance nomination of beneficiaries framework introduced since Sep 1, 2009, you can make an insurance nomination either at the time of purchase of a policy or at any time after issuing the policy.
There are two types of nominations under the Insurance Act:
- Trust nomination under Section 49L, or
- Revocable nomination under Section 49M.
Revoke a nomination through your insurance company
To withdraw a nomination via your will, you must meet certain conditions, which may be complicated and lengthy. In addition, confidentiality and privacy may be a matter of concern given that one of the requirements that involve lodging with the insurance company a certified copy of your will.
An alternative to revoking a nomination via a will may, therefore, be to revoke the nomination through your insurance firm.
If you go through the insurance company, you just need to fill in the correct forms and submit them. Nevertheless, this may vary from insurers to insurers.
If a trust nomination exists, the insurance proceeds are passed on to the beneficiary’s estate
If the nomination is revocable and there is only one beneficiary the nomination is revoked If there are other remaining beneficiaries, the proceeds of the insurance will be distributed equally among them.
If you have taken up insurance policies and wish to make or withdraw any nominations in those policies through a will, it is recommended that you inform your insurance company. This will avoid any confusion as to who is the correct nominee to receive the proceeds of the insurance upon death.
CPF Nomination Scheme
We frequently think it’s unnecessary and a hassle to make a CPF nomination. Making a CPF nomination, however, is a surprisingly simple process to ensure that your CPF money is distributed according to your wishes.
A CPF nomination provides the option for CPF members to decide who will receive their CPF contributions, and how much each nominee will receive when they pass on. If you want to distribute your CPF savings according to your wishes, you can apply for a CPF nomination before you pass on.
Without a nomination, the CPF funds will be allocated under the Intestate Succession Act or the Inheritance Certificate (for Muslims) by the Public Trustee’s Office (PTO) to legally entitled beneficiaries (which are usually family members and next-of-kin). The PTO charges a fee for the distribution of your CPF assets that are unnominated. For more information please visit the Ministry of Law – Public Trustee’s Office webpage.
All members of the CPF who have reached the age of 16 and who are mentally sound will be eligible for a CPF nomination.
Even if you’re a bankrupt if you want your CPF savings to be spread among your loved ones, you may still make a CPF nomination. Your CPF monies are protected from claims by creditors or the Official Assignee.
A CPF nominee is any individual or organization you nominate to receive a share of your CPF money.
The nomination of persons as my nominee(s)
Any person under the age of 18 can be nominated as your nominee.
Nevertheless, if your candidate is under the age of 18 at the time of application, his share will be held by the PTO for administration before he reaches the age of 18 (the fee for holding CPF monies of a minor can be referred to in the table).
How many nominees am I allowed to appoint?
There is no limit on how many candidates you may nominate. Nevertheless, if you nominate more than 4 candidates, you’ll need to complete and sign an additional CPF Nomination Form.
What happens if my nominee passes away before me?
If a nominee predeceases you and no new nomination is made, the CPF monies would be allocated to the remaining surviving nominees in the same proportion as their stated shares owing to the nominee who had deceased.
This is different than when no nomination for a CPF is made. In this case, the CPF monies are distributed under the Intestate Succession Act.
The nomination of organisations as my nominee(s)
Many people may want to nominate an organization like a family business or even a charity or society if they wish for those organisations to receive their CPF monies.
The organization you want to appoint must be a separate legal entity that is legitimately capable of holding CPF monies on its own behalf and not on behalf of its members.
Such organizations would include, for example, societies registered under the Societies Act, companies registered under the Companies Act and limited partnerships recognized under the Limited Liability Partnerships Act.
If you are unsure whether the company is such a separate legal entity, you should search the BizFile+ registry for companies or LLPs of the Registry of Societies for Registered Companies or of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).
Distribute your CPF money according to your wishes
The most important reason to apply for a CPF nomination is to allocate your CPF money as you wish.
What happens if you don’t make a CPF nomination?
Without any CPF nomination, the CPF money (with the exception of the discounted Singtel shares) will be allocated to your family members under the Intestate Succession Act or an Inheritance Certificate (for Muslims, which we will be mention below) by the Public Trustee’s Office (PTO).
What does CPF Nomination cover?
You can look at the the following to find out
- What is covered by CPF Nomination, and
- What is not covered by CPF Nomination
Things to know before making any CPF Nomination
CPF Nomination provides CPF members with the option to specify who will receive their CPF savings, and how much each nominee should receive, upon their demise
You can choose how you would like each of your nominee(s) to receive your CPF savings based on their needs
How will nominees receive the CPF payout?
By default, your nominees will receive CPF savings due to them in cash, via cheque or bank transfer
If you do not make a nomination, your CPF savings will be transferred to the Public Trustee’s Office for distribution to your family members in accordance with the intestacy/inheritance laws.
What are the types of CPF nominations?
If you haven’t chosen a specific type of CPF nomination, the Cash Nomination option will be the default choice.
First, you will need to agree on the number of nominees that should be allocated to them and the exact percentage or proportion of your CPF monies. For example, you can nominate your spouse and each of your three children for a separate percentage or fraction of the CPF monies.
Second, in the presence of 2 witnesses, you’ll need to sign a legal document known as the “CPF Nomination Form” to allow the CPF nomination. The form is available here (click on the “Forms” tab).
Take note that they can not be your nominees if you prefer to bring your own witnesses. They must also have a sound mind and at least 21 years old. You can’t be your own witness.
Your application will be reviewed and the status of your nomination application will be communicated to you by the CPF Board If you do not receive news within 2 weeks of your request, you are encouraged to contact the CPF Board
If circumstances have changed and you wish to cancel your CPF nomination, you can simply fill in a “Notice of Nomination Revocation”
The form can be found online (click on the “Forms” tab) and from any CPF Service Center. On top of it, you’ll still need 2 witnesses for that process.
You are encouraged to review and update your CPF nomination as often as your current circumstances need to be kept relevant. Where circumstances such as a recent marriage, a child’s birth or a nominee’s death, your CPF nomination may not be relevant any more.
If you get married, they will automatically revoke your CPF nominations. Newer CPF nominations will have to be made. On the other hand, your current nomination to the CPF will not be revoked when:
- You divorce your spouse;*
- You welcome a new child to your family; or
- One (or more) of your nominee(s) pass away
You may, however, wish to update your CPF nominations when such events occur. This may include making a new nomination for your newborn child or re-adjusting your remaining nominees’ share allocation upon the death of one nominee.
If no new nomination is made after the death of a nominee the CPF monies owed to the nominee who died would be allocated to the remaining surviving nominees in the same proportion as their specified shares.
Even if after you have made your CPF nomination you subsequently lose mental capacity, your nomination will still remain valid. Since you would no longer have the mental capacity to cancel your current nomination or make a new one, this nomination to the CPF would remain unless:
- The nominee is pre-deceased by the sole nominee or by all nominees; or
- The court makes an order to revoke the current CPF appointment (e.g. if the court finds the nominations were made when you were not mentally able).
In those cases, according to the Intestate Succession Act, your CPF savings will be paid to the PTO for distribution.
The CPF Board will notify to your nominees on the day of your demise. After that, the nominees can at any time claim their share of the CPF money from the CPF Board.
The CPF monies will be allocated in cash to your nominees or deposited into their CPF accounts depending on the type of CPF nomination you have made as above. If you haven’t selected a certain form of CPF nomination, cash distribution will be by default.
Does CPF Nomination get revoked after marriage?
If you made a CPF nomination when you were single, your nomination will be revoked when you get married
Things to take note when making CPF Nomination
There are few ways to make a CPF nomination:
- In-person at CPF Service Centres
- Via CPF Online Services
What if there is no valid CPF Nomination made?
How do I make a CPF Nomination via CPF Online Services?
Muslim Inheritance Law in Singapore (For Muslim)
Muslim intestate law, faraid, is incorporated in the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) and is administered by the Singapore Syariah Court. The exact legal principles that apply under the AMLA to the deceased will depend on which school of faith, or madhab, he or she has subscribed to, and whether he or she was Malay.
Most Singapore Muslims follow the Shafi’i madhab, and so this madhab applies by default unless there is evidence that the deceased had followed another madhab.
Under section 111(1) of the AMLA, all Muslims who are domiciled in Singapore who pass away after 1 July 1968 must have their intestate property administered according to faraid.
Any will made by the Muslim deceased must also conform to faraid principles, as will be elaborated on below.
What types of properties fall under Faraid?
In general, the civil law will take precedence where Muslim law and civil law clash as to whether a particular property should be distributed under faraid. That is unless the civil law legislation expressly states that it does not apply to Muslims.
However, this framework only applies if the method of distribution is contested in court. If the parties agree to their entitlements under faraid or an alternative arrangement as specified under a fatwa issued by the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS), then such arrangements will bind them.
A fatwa is an Islamic legal ruling issued by the MUIS. It is also important to note that fatwas are not judicially binding. Fatwas are considered expert opinions which can be rejected if the court finds that they do not relate to the issue.
The following categories of property do not fall to be distributed under faraid:
These properties fall under the general principles of civil law, according to the Court of Appeal in Shafeeg bin Salim Talib v Fatimah bte Abud. This is because the Land Titles Act has no specific provisions exempting Muslims, meaning it applies to Muslims.
As a result, on the death of one of the joint tenants, the right to property owned under joint tenancy would be passed on to the remaining joint tenant(s). MUIS also issued a fatwa in 2019 stating the same thing.
Where the deceased had nominated another person for the money in his or her CPF account, the CPF moneys belong to that nominee solely. Under faraid, these money do not fall to be distributed.
Section 73 of the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act states that a deceased person’s life insurance policies are not part of his estate. Those policies belong to the named nominees.
Apart from civil law limitations, the following deductions will also be made from the properties before they are allocated according to faraid:
As long as the gift comes into place while the deceased was still alive, the property transferred under these gifts does not fall within the deceased’s estate. Gifts which purport to take effect at a given time before the deceased’s death, i.e. nuzriah, do not exempt the gifted properties from being subject to faraid. The section on wills below will elaborate on this.
Where the deceased and another person have jointly acquired property during a marriage, this property will be divided in accordance with Malay customs, as the court deems appropriate. The rest of the property will fall beneath the deceased’s estate.
No cases on this issue have been reported in Singapore, but Malaysian courts have awarded the deceased’s wife between half to one-third of the harta sepencarian.
Such vows can be pecuniary vows, i.e. where the deceased vowed to give some property if he did something, or vows of gratitude, i.e. where the deceased vowed to give some property if something happened. Vows can not be for an unjust or unlawful purpose (according to Islamic law), or to do something that is already compulsory (under Islamic law).
It includes money owed to MUIS in lieu of zakat. Other debt sources may be from kaffarah and fidyah, and hajj expenses.
5. Debt to persons
6. Funeral and other expenses relating to the death of the deceased
All property remaining after the above deductions fall under faraid and must be distributed accordingly, subject to the will from the deceased.
What is relevance of the Deceased’s Will?
The deceased may have written a will to distribute some portion of his estate, or wassiyat / wasiat. The will must be in writing and signed by the deceased and two other witnesses, following section 6 of the Wills Act.
The deceased is only allowed to leave up to a third of his estate after the above deductions are made. Every amount above that one-third is not taken into consideration.
Furthermore, he can not give any person who is a beneficiary under faraid (i.e. spouses and blood relatives) additional benefits or property in his own will. This does not include persons not belonging to the established faraid categories, including non-Muslims and children adopted or illegitimate. Hence the will can be made in their favour.
If the deceased has provided in his will for any of his faraid beneficiaries, then the corresponding portion of the will is invalid unless all the other faraid beneficiaries agree to be valid. This agreement must be made after the deceased’s death.
Some have tried to make a gift that takes effect at a set time before the death of the deceased to get around the strict faraid will requirements, e.g. that the property will be deemed to have passed one hour before the deceased’s death. This is known as a testamentary nuzriah, and for now, appears not to be valid under Singapore case law.
Hence, the property bequeathed under a testamentary nuzriah will still come under the above provisions of the will, i.e. both the requirements of formality under the Wills Act and the Islamic requirements of the wassiyat.
Division of assets under Faraid
With effect from October 1, 2017, the AMLA makes no distinction between how the estate of a wife and husband is being handled.
The division of assets under faraid generally includes people related to the deceased by blood, and the deceased’s spouse(s).
A portion of the estate may be left to BaitulMal, which is a fund administered by the MUIS, depending on the persons the deceased has left behind. If a person passes away without having to leave any heirs, all his assets (except for those validly expressed in his will) will go to BaitulMal.
The beneficiaries under faraid are as follows:
Note: Consanguine siblings are siblings of the same father but not of the same mother, whereas uterine siblings are siblings of the same mother but not of the same father.
As distribution rules of faraid are highly extensive and complicated depending on the remaining heirs, consider using the Syariah Court faraid calculator to gauge the amount to be distributed.
Alternatively, you can find a detailed table of distributions here. A detailed distribution table will also be provided when applying online for an inheritance certificate on the Syariah Court web site.
Process of administering the Deceased’s Estate
The steps required in the process of distributing the estate of the deceased are:
This certificate identifies the beneficiaries and their connections to the deceased. It helps in proper distribution of the estate of the deceased through listing the share of the estate of the deceased by each beneficiary, in accordance with Muslim law.
Notably, the Inheritance Certificate does not consider any valid will the deceased may have made. Therefore the actual share entitlements of the beneficiaries to the estate are not necessarily definitive.
You can apply for a Certificate of Inheritance here. The next step requires the Inheritance Certificate
This allows the court to nominate a personal representative who is responsible for the distribution of the estate of the deceased.
Where the deceased has made a will, a Grant of Probate authorizes an executor (named in the will of the deceased) to administer his estate in accordance with the deceased’s wishes as set forth in his will.
Where the deceased died intestate without having a will, a Grant of Letters of Administration authorizes an Administrator to divide the estate of the deceased according to faraid. Letters of administration may be granted to the next-of-kin of the deceased, or to any other person entitled to a share in the estate under Muslim law, at the discretion of the court.
Where the deceased has made a valid will the executor shall distribute the estate of the deceased in accordance with the will. The executor is also required to settle any deceased’s outstanding debts and liabilities.
Where the deceased died intestate without making a will, it is necessary that the Administrator allocate the estate of the deceased in accordance with faraid.
Estate planning is not just for the wealthy — everyone can benefit from ensuring that after their death their assets and assets are properly cared for. Without proper planning and planning, the probate court can result in unexpected asset distribution.
Estate planning also involves giving permission to family members or an attorney to satisfy your desires if you become disabled while you are still alive.
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Your retirement funds would also have been distributed accordingly in accordance with your Will in case of unfortunate events.