More writing wills at a younger age

They do so to ensure assets go to people of their choice. -ST

Sat, Apr 03, 2010
The Straits Times

By Mavis Toh

IT USED to be that only the sick and the old wrote wills.

But now, the practice of crafting a formal document specifying the individuals who will receive one’s property upon his death is catching on among the younger set, even those yet to hit their 30th birthday. This stems from people in their 20s and 30s pursuing active lifestyles and often travelling to places where epidemics and terrorism are real threats.

They are also getting richer younger, often through investments, and thus want to be sure their assets go to those they love or who need looking after.

Law firms, recognising this demand, are giving talks to educate people on how to write wills; some provide an online will-writing service.

Last year, 8,258 depositions were made at the Wills Registry, up from 6,943 in 2005 and 3,996 in 2001. The registry is a central database of key information on wills made. It does not track the ages of will-makers, but lawyers interviewed said that while the majority of their clients are in their 40s and 50s, the young are increasingly coming to them as well.

Eight lawyers who spoke to The Straits Times said about three in 10 of their clients who want wills made are in their 20s and 30s. A decade ago, barely one in 10 was in that age group.

Lawyer Patrick Tan said: ‘The younger generation travel a lot, know how unpredictable life can be and are more aware of how to protect their wealth.’

His firm handles about 100 cases of will-writing every month, up from 30 five years ago.

Fellow lawyer Eben Ong remarked that with divorce rates and the number of blended families on the rise, more people are leaving wills to also ensure that only the right people benefit upon their deaths.

Mrs Vivian Yap, a 32-year-old widow, made a will last year. Her husband’s unexpected death in a traffic accident in 2008 drove home the reality that death can strike suddenly. Because he had not left a will, part of his insurance payout went to his father, who had abandoned the family when he was just three.

Mrs Yap, a tour guide, said: ‘I know my husband wouldn’t have wanted the money to go to his dad. If he had a will, it would have ensured that.’

Finance manager Michael Lim made his will when he was 33, when he learnt that if he did not leave one, his assets would go to only his wife and children. He wanted to be sure his parents would also be provided for.

Now 36 and travelling twice-monthly for work, he said: ‘Now I know that my wife, children and parents will be looked after should something unfortunate happen to me.’

The relative low cost and ease of drawing up a will have also encouraged more to sign up. A straightforward will costs between $100 and $200, much lower than the $500 to $1,500 previously.

Lawyers notice that unlike before – when only those in the upper middle class drew up wills – heartlanders are now also taking action.

Mr Amolat Singh, who handles about 60 wills a year, said: ‘Given that even HDB flats now cost a fair bit, people realise that their four-room flat is an asset.’

If one dies intestate, that is, without a will, his assets will be distributed according to intestacy laws, which spell out rules for distributing the deceased’s property among his spouse, children and relatives.

Mr Singh said: ‘A will allows the deceased to govern from the grave. Without one, unwittingly, someone they don’t want to benefit will benefit.’

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Link

Back to Articles menu