While the LGBTQ+ community continues to push for equal rights in many areas, it’s going to take a long while before marriage between 2 people of the same gender is recognised. Due to this, there are some additional points for same-sex/non-traditional families to take note of (as compared to our straight friends) when it comes to estate planning.
What is estate planning? Why do we need to think about it now?
Your estate refers to the assets you have accumulated over time. This includes your assets (e.g. cash, property and businesses) and liabilities.
Estate planning refers to your strategy to deal with your estate – to who you want and in the way you want, when you are no longer able to. It may come across as a bummer to think about incapacity and death, but with a plan set up, we can make sure there are no undue delays and obstacles in making sure our loved ones get what they need when they need it, even in the absence of a legally recognised relationship. If you don’t get your estate planning sorted out early, you risk having your wishes not respected later on.
Upon our passing, don’t our assets get distributed automatically?
Should a person pass away without leaving a will, that person is said to have died intestate. This means that there are no instructions on who should deal with and how their estate should be managed. The inflexible rules of intestacy would apply, which may not be what the deceased would have wanted.
Even same-sex couples who got married overseas need to pay attention to this. As an overseas same-sex marriage is not recognised in Singapore, the surviving spouse in such a marriage is also not able to automatically benefit from the estate of the deceased here. For non-monogamous relationships, this gets even more complicated.
A quick example of what happens without a will:
A man with a surviving wife, parents and no children – the spouse gets 50% and the parents get 50%.
A woman with a surviving wife (married overseas), parents and no children – the spouse gets 0% and the parents get 100% because the marriage is not recognised in Singapore.
Yes, it’s a headache.
What about when I am hospitalised or incapacitated?
Other than the end of life planning, we also need to consider planning for situations where one of us is incapacitated physically or mentally. The issue becomes who is the next-of-kin or person authorised to make decisions and act on behalf of the incapacitated partner. Hospitals, the government and financial institutions can be sticky as to who they are willing to speak and listen to, and may be inclined to refer to your parents or siblings as they have a legally recognised biological relationship to you. Would you prefer that your partner has a say in your care?
Over the next few weeks, we will cover some steps you can work on immediately, so that the issues listed above may be taken care of in the way which you would have intended them to be handled. We will discuss wills, lasting powers of attorney, advance medical directives, trusts, nominations and share tips on managing your bank accounts. Stay tuned!
This article is co-written by Wan Yi and Pak.
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