Estate Planning Stories: "Blood is Thicker than Water"

- May 07, 2018 1193

The passing on of a loved one is a time of grief, and allowing this event to descend into full-scale family disharmony through greed-induced fights are the last thing anyone would want. While Wills can save your family from chaos, a poorly drafted Will; especially those made in a "do-it-yourself (DIY)" capacity, may instead encourage familial disputes.

For Madam Soh (not her real name), such was the case. She was a single mother who was unabashedly open about her preference for her younger son, where she made it clear to the elder daughter that she intended to Will all her assets to him, as she always thought that he was a better choice as compared to her prodigal daughter. She was of the view that Wills drafted by professional estate planners were only necessary for the wealthy, where her three-room flat and meagre CPF savings did not warrant a professionally made Will. She proceeded to write out what she deemed was a valid Will, sourcing her information from the words of well-meaning friends.

Upon her passing, her son sought to rely on her Will; but offered 40% of Madam Soh's estate to his elder sister as he too felt that what she provided for in her Will was unfair. However, her daughter saw the opportunity to get more and commenced a suit claiming that Madam Soh's original Will as invalid. The suit was partially fuelled by the DIY nature of the Will, and her desire to continue funding her lifestyle. The outcome of the long suit was that Madam Soh's Will was invalidated, with her estate being distributed 50-50 to both siblings. The two siblings have since severed ties with each other. While the ethics of Madam Soh's favouritism is questionable, it is deeply disheartening to see families fall apart due to long and costly disputes over inheritance. After all, kinship cannot be simply quantified in money. It is regretful that Madam Soh did not seek professional help to draft a valid Will to eliminate room for disputes among her children, such that at the family could have the opportunity to stay united.

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