Chartwell Associates Pte Ltd | Wills, Transitional Guardians & Powers of Attorney

Wills, Transitional Guardians & Powers of Attorney

Wills, Transitional Guardians & Powers of Attorney



What Happens if You Die Without A Will?



If a person dies without a Will, they are said to have died “intestate”. In this occurrence the state probate court must decide how their assets are to be distributed. The probate court usually begins the process by appointing an administrator to oversee the estate of the deceased. This person will make a list of the deceased’s assets, pays off debts, and then distribute the remaining assets to the parties deemed to be the beneficiaries by the probate judge.






How assets are distributed may vary from state to state. Most state laws divide property between the surviving spouse (if any) and the deceased’s children (if any).

In the situation where both spouses die together (for example, if they died together in a car accident) and they left minor children the court will  decide who gets custody of the children.

This may not be who you really wanted to look after your children.




What Does a Will Do?



A Will enables you to distribute your estate as you actually wish.


It also allows you to appoint an Executor (personal representative).

This is the person who will get your Will, collect all your assets, pay any outstand bills and taxes and then distribute the balance of the estate to the named beneficiaries in line with your wishes in the Will.


A Will also allow you to appoint Guardians for any minor children.



How Do I Fill Out (sign) a will?


A Will must be signed in front of witnesses (most states require two witnesses, while Virginia requires three), and if certain procedures are not followed the Will may be invalid. In many states, a will duly executed in front of witnesses, with all signatures notarized, is considered “self-proving” and is allowed for probate without witness testimony or other additional evidence.










A Will can also set up trusts to hold assets for minor children until they reach a certain age, usually stipulated in the Will. Setting up a separate trust outside the Will can be a way to circumvent the probate process (which all Wills go through) so that heirs can receive their inheritance more smoothly and quickly. People who set up such trusts often have a pour-over Will as well to dispose of assets not included in the trust.


Trusts can be excellent solutions for some individuals and  families but have to follow certain rules, can be complicated and can be expensive to set up and maintain.




A Particularly Expat Problem



It is very common for Executors and Guardians to be family members; mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters for example. The problem for expat parents living abroad is that these people probably don’t live in Singapore but live in the US or elsewhere. If both parents die together (for example in a car accident) it may take weeks for the Executor and Guardian to find out.




In the meantime the Singapore authorities will take charge of any minor children and place them in a foster home until the Guardian appointed in the Will can come to Singapore and take responsibility for them.


In Singapore, domestic helpers are not allowed to look after minor children if both parents were to die, even though they may have a great relationship with the children and the children probably know and trust her more than anyone else.


Although not part of a Will, parents can draft a letter appointing “Transitional Guardians”. This is a letter that parents can give to friends living in Singapore giving them the authority to look after the children until the Guardian arrives in Singapore.





Powers of Attorney



It’s bad enough if your spouse were to die, but if your spouse is the bread winner and is lying in a coma in a hospital, it could cause you more problems than him or her dying.


Sooner or later, maybe 4-6 months their employing company will probably cease their Employment Contract and income will stop.


You will have access to any money in joint accounts but if that runs out you will not be able to get access to any cash in your spouse’s individual name or even joint investments as the investment company will require two signatures for any encashment.


In this scenario you would have to approach the “Court of Protection” here in Singapore, to apply for Power of Attorney over your spouse.


This will involve a wait of 3-4 months to get a Court date, require Barristers to represent both you and separately your spouse (costing thousands of dollars each).

At the end of the hearing the Court of Protection will probably say ”Yes, of course you can have power of attorney over your spouse” but there would have been a long delay which could be extremely distressing.

Arranging “Power of Attorney” on each other ensures that someone you trust will be on hand to manage the many practical, financial tasks that will arise if you become incapacitated. For example, bills must be paid, bank deposits must be made, and someone must handle insurance and benefits paperwork.


Many other matters may need attention as well, from handling property repairs to managing investments or a small business. In most cases, an enduring power of attorney for finances is the best way to take care of tasks like these.


Powers of Attorney, unlike Wills, tend to be country specific and in America even State specific. So you should consider having Power of Attorney on each other here in Singapore as that is where you are currently living and then look at where else you have important assets and consider whether you should have powers of attorney in those jurisdictions as well


In order to determine the best solution for you, meet with one of our advisers, who will asses your current situation,
or issue that you want addressed, and will construct an effective affordable solution specially tailored to fit your needs.