Life still goes on, yes, even after you’ve made up your mind to go separate ways from your partner. Sometimes, the unexpected happens, and one’s life may just end abruptly without any warning signs. Realistically, divorce proceedings take months, and in some cases even years, to wrap up. If you should pass away without having a will done up, the laws will decide on how your assets are going to be split.
I’ve already signed the papers at my lawyer’s office. I’m considered divorced, right?
Wrong. Even though you have filed for a divorce and the proceedings are underway, you are still not considered legally divorced in the eyes of the law. Even after signing the papers, you’re still considered married and are still subjected to marital laws for at least 4 to 5 months. It is only after the final divorce judgement is passed that you are considered legally divorced from your life partner.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
Upon your death, all your assets will be distributed according to the rules of the Intestate Succession Act. Do note that different rules apply to Muslims*.
Here are some points that you may wish to take note:
- If you leave behind a spouse and children, then regardless of the number of people entitled to your estate, your spouse is entitled to half of your estate. Your children share the other half equally.
- If you leave behind a spouse and no children, your spouse gets half of your estate, and your parents share the other half.
- If you have a child under the age of 21 years old as at the date of your death, their share of the estate will be held by the administrators (usually your next-of-kin will apply to Court to be administrators) as in capacity as trustees, until your child reaches 21.
- Divorce does not cancel or revoke an existing will. But remarriage automatically revokes an existing will.
- If you do remarry after the divorce is official and still don’t have a will, then your new spouse will be entitled to 50% of your estate and your children (from former marriage as well as current marriage) will be entitled to the other half.
If you have been married more than once and you have children of past marriages and current marriage, please, get your will done if you desire all your loved ones to live harmoniously after your demise.
*For Muslims, different rules apply as their assets will be distributed according to Islamic Inheritance law. The Syariah Court issues the Inheritance Certificate setting out the shares of the beneficiaries. For Muslims, only 1/3 of the deceased person’s estate may be willed.
Why should I have a will?
Having a will done provides unparalleled control over what happens to your estate upon your demise. Let’s say that you wish to leave behind all your estate to your children and aged parents, with nothing for your soon-to-be ex-spouse; then a will can cater to that. You may also appoint a trustee to oversee the estate funds before your children are of legal age to manage it on their own. You may also wish to give away your part of your estate to people who are not blood-related, but whom you share a close bond with.
Having a will done is being responsible. Having a will done saves your loved ones from uncertainties if you should depart from this world suddenly. The rules of distribution under the Intestate Succession Act apply across the board, and as such the rules does not take into account your unique situation.
I have already got a will done even before the divorce.
It’s great that you have one, but as your circumstances change, a review is also in order. Take a look at your will again to ensure that it is still relevant to you. If there is a need, do a fresh will to revoke your existing will. Divorce in itself does not cancel wills. You probably do not want your ex-spouse to remain as a beneficiary to your estate since he or she is out of your life.
Ultimately, going through a divorce is already very taxing on all parties involved. Should anything happen to you, having a will done can make things more clear-cut for all your loved ones.
Ng Pui Khim is a senior lawyer with over 20 years of private practice experience focusing on divorces (family and matrimonial law), real estate (conveyancing practice), wills and succession law.
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