This article was contributed to us by Loo Cheng Chuan.
26 June 2016 is a day that I would never forget.
My wife and I were on a Singapore Airlines (SIA) plane SQ368 from Singapore to Milan. Two hours after we took off, the pilot announced that there was an “oil leak” and our plane had to turn back to Singapore. Upon landing at Changi Airport at 6:50am, the entire right wing was suddenly engulfed in a huge fire.
Unfortunately, I was seated right beside the burning wing, and it was a moment of life and death! Thankfully, the incredible firefighters from Changi Airport put out the fire in a matter of minutes and saved our lives. The full story was reported on Channel NewsAsia.
The post-incident report indicated that there was due to a crack in engine’s main fuel oil heat exchanger, a fault of the engine manufacturer’s, and not SIA. Regardless, we almost lost our lives.
If we had died, it would be a major calamity. Not only because my three children would have become orphans, but also because our estate was not properly planned as my wife and I did not have a will. Furthermore, we have not made our CPF nominations. Our money, investments, and assets were all over and no one knew their exact whereabouts.
Last but not least, we did not have the chance to leave a parting last word to our children and loved ones.
Following our close shave with death, my wife and I spent much effort to carry out estate planning to ensure that our assets will be distributed according to our wishes. It turned out to be easier than we thought, and I would like to share the process with you:
# 1 Do Up A Will
Unless you have a huge and complicated financial empire, doing up a will is not that difficult, as there are several DIY templates available online. This one is pretty good and simple.
The key here is to have two witnesses and a schedule of your assets. You can also get a lawyer to do a will for a fee of S$200 and above.
# 2 List Down Your Assets In A Schedule
One of the most important thing to do is do up a list of the whereabouts of your assets. We diligently typed out a list of all our investment and assets, shares, funds, bank accounts (both local and overseas), and insurance plans on a spreadsheet and attached it to my will. We even listed down key jewelleries (not that we have many) and branded handbags that my wife has so that they can be assigned in our wills to the children.
# 3 Appoint An Executor For Your Will
We picked a closed and trusted family member to be the executor of our estate in the event of our demise. To make his job easier, we briefed him of all the details of my assets and even gave the email / contact numbers of all the fund managers, stock brokers and bank accounts numbers.
Remember, the clearer the instructions you provide to your executor the information, the faster the executor can make the arrangements to help your family receive the estate.
# 4 Do Up Your CPF Nomination
My wife and I went down to CPF branch office and did a nomination for our CPF. Essentially, the nomination is like a Will, but applies only to your CPF. In Singapore, your will does not extend to your CPF monies, and the government requires you to do up a nomination separately for your CPF.
You can find out how you can make a CPF nomination on the CPF website itself.
# 5 Explain Our Will To Our Teenage Children
We went as far as to brief our children how we have written our will.
We wanted to have a chance to explain why we decided on the allocation, and the reason behind why we assigned certain items to that child. They were encouraged to asked questions regarding the will and we would answer them. It turned out to be a surprisingly fun session as we discussed who is assigned the Chanel bag, or the LV bag. The girls debated over the bags and even discussed if Ben’s (my son) prospective wife should get a handbag as well.
The kids were told the whereabouts of the will and who the executor is. We did not want to leave questions unanswered for them to harbour bequest related animosity towards us or their fellow siblings.
# 6 Last Words To Our Children
Surviving a near death incident taught us one principle of last words: Don’t wait until the last moment to say what you want to say! We would tell our kids regularly that we love them very much and they must live their lives honestly and passionately.
Do Your Estate Planning Early
Death comes to us all, and yet for most of us, we choose to ignore the eventuality and uncertainty of death. It took my wife and I a close shave with death to begin working on our estate.
Now that we have drawn up a good estate plan, briefed the key beneficiaries and stakeholders, and most importantly, conveyed the words we want to say, our hearts are more at peace, knowing that when the day does come, some level of comfort will go to our children in the form of a properly planned and executed estate.
A very wise man once said to me “When you think about death, you’ll live a better life.” It took me some time to appreciate its meaning, and now more than ever, I can see that it rings true.
Loo Cheng Chuan is a father of three and founder of the 1M65 movement. To find out more about the 1M65 movement, you can watch our DollarsAndSense Tonight interview with him: