The following story is based on an actual series of events with some names and circumstances fictionalised and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional. It can’t be emphasized enough on the importance of estate planning.
The woman lunged forward, grabbed the hair of the man and screamed: “You influenced daddy to keep me out of the will!” That shattered the solemn atmosphere at the wake of the head of the family.
What started with three sisters huddled together next to the casket listening to their brother-in-law holding court, turned chaotic. Their murmurs grew louder and louder as it turned into a heated argument.
All eyes at the Funeral Parlour were now on the mourners. Daughter No 1, Cheng, held back by relatives from attacking her brother-in-law, continued berating the man. “I was in daddy’s will. He showed me…” she said in between sobs.
Daughter No 2 countered for her shocked husband saying, “You deserve it! It’s all your own doing!”
From a corner, a voice commanded: “Enough! We’ve not sent off daddy yet and you’re already fighting…”
The voice trailed off. Tears streamed down her cheek as she watched unbelievably at how the family was starting to break apart.
She was soon lost in her own thoughts as the altercation stopped. “Have we raised our children right?” she questioned herself.
She looked at Cheng, who was now crying quietly. She was more of a problem among her three children. Probably being first born, and the apple of Daddy Hock’s eyes, she was spoilt. Her gambling habit and getting into debts were what got her father angry most of the time in the past one year.
So, was disappointed Daddy Hock right in rewriting his will? Was Cheng right in saying Beng influenced Daddy Hock to leave her out of the will, she wondered.
“Ah, that Beng, he likes to show off that he knows-it-all! How much of an influence did he have over my Hock?” her thoughts went racing. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Beng smirking.
She wondered why Hock ended up with making Beng the executor of his will and also letting Beng keep the will. The matriarch of the family was at a loss as to restoring the bonds between the daughters.
This is crucial why we need to understand the importance of estate planning.
The Importance Of Estate Planning
This family drama at the wake highlighted several pertinent issues which are valuable pointers to note for in the importance of estate planning.
Re-writing of Wills
The Last Will and Testament is an important legal document giving clear instructions for wealth distribution.
While the will can be re-written as many times as one wishes according to change in circumstances, it is nevertheless important that the document be kept private and confidential to avoid occurrences of tampering or being damaged and rendering the will invalid.
In the case of Hock, he has divulged the contents to his Daughter No 1, giving rise to possibility of squabbles among family members even before he is gone.
It is also prudent that the reading of the will be held at a conducive place and time. In the family drama above, Beng, a related party, who was appointed Executor and Custodian of the will, had – whether by design or coincidence – divulged the contents of the will at the wake. Stemming from this, things could get ugly.
Appointing the right Executor is crucial to ensure that the estate is administered professionally and efficiently to carry out the wishes of the deceased and avoid the bereaved family members and dependents having to deal with issues arising from the estate such as creditors chasing for payment and tedious administrative matters such as preparation of accounts and filing taxes.
With the right Executor in place, the administration can be carried out efficiently where the beneficiaries would have fast and easy access to their inheritance.
It is a common practice for testators to appoint, out of convenience, their spouses or children or trusted friends as executors to handle their estate administration. This is not wrong or prohibited but it could be counter-productive for the effective administration of the testator’s estate if the appointed executor is unfamiliar and inexperienced with the tasks at hand.
A trust company is a recommended option as unlike the individual, the company will exist in perpetuity and has experienced and dedicated skilled staff with the time, capability and resources on hand to perform the function of the Executor.
It must be the borne in mind that equally as important in having a will is the safe custody of the will. A will that cannot be found is as good as not having a will. Safe custody from possibility of being tampered or damaged is also essential.
Keeping the will in a Will Custody Centre is a recommended option to being in one’s locked cabinet or safe. Worse if the will is kept in a bank safe deposit box because it cannot be retrieved without probate, which cannot be obtained without the deposition of the will in court.
A dedicated Will Custody Centre can ensure that the will is easily located and retrieved; is in safe storage in a humidity-controlled environment that ensures the document’s good condition over time; and is in secure vault with appropriate tight security system in place.
It is hoped that we now understand the importance of estate planning and to avoid any last rites drama.
About Rockwills International Group
Rockwills International Group, now in its 27th year, pioneered professional will writing in 1995 and has since evolved into the leading estate planning specialist in the country. It is today the largest provider of solutions and support services in the areas of trusts, succession, management and distribution of wealth. It has shareholders’ funds exceeding RM50 million. It has done over 280,000 wills and 15,000 trusts and hold more than RM25 billion in assets under trust.