Recently, OCBC introduced a free will writing service via their proprietary online will generator. This is good and I hope many are encouraged to take charge of their assets responsibly rather than dying without one.
However, there are many areas of concern in using online will generators or similar non-lawyer type services.
It is open knowledge you do not need a lawyer to draft a will. Neither do you even need to write a will at all. If you die without one, you are known to have died intestate. In this case, the Intestate Succession Act will kick in to distribute your assets according to rules prescribed by the Government.
Relying on either the Intestate Succession Act or non-legal service may not fully ensure your wishes will be carried out, and worse, result in in-fighting between claimants to your assets.
In theory for a will to be valid, all you need is to express an intention in writing and appoint two witnesses. In practice, there can be a wide variety of situations that can cause problems to your will, for example:
The first red-flag to note is this: How do you prevent fraudulent applications on a will generator? All I need is someone’s identity, collaborate with a false witness and I would have successfully raised a challenge for someone’s assets.
Although the whole wealth of a person can be distributed through a civil will, a Muslim’s inheritance is pre-determined through Faraid. However, a Faraid isn’t a will per se. A lawyer is still required to work the differences between a civil will and the Faraid. See more on Muslim asset distribution here.
How will you defend against a long-lost relative whom can prove a blood-line? Or secret marriages with secret trusts for unknown children who do have a valid claim?
What if there were challenges to the testator’s state of mind? That could potentially invalidate the entire will. How do we know that a testator was not coerced or manipulated into making the distributions?
Long drawn probate litigations have been the cause of family breakups. Although powerful families with diverse assets make it to the newspapers, these same disputes also occur in families with humble assets.
One of the advantages of hiring a lawyer to make these arrangements is that they would have brought your attention to blind spots, conducted due diligence to prevent unknown legitimate claims and protect you from fraud.
Poorly drawn wills have been known to tear families apart. Certainly these free services mean well, however if one does not know of the risks involved, lawyers are going to find themselves with more work from probate litigation instead.
A good lawyer has the ultimate job of keeping families together and steer them away from legal battles. A simple will costs only $500 to $1000, but the repercussions can cost far more.