While estate planning might sound like a formal term, it’s really all about making sure our wishes are respected when it comes to our belongings, loved ones, and future.
Estate planning involves making decisions about how your assets, property, and other belongings will be managed and distributed after your passing. For LGBTQ+ individuals, there are certain unique considerations and challenges that make estate planning even more important. From the lack of legal recognition for relationships, to ensuring family members are taken care of, there’s a lot to consider.
For LGBTQ+ individuals, having a residential property to call home will likely be a preferred choice. Joint Tenancy and Tenancy in Common are two distinct forms of property ownership that they can opt for.
In a joint tenancy arrangement, co-owners are considered a single legal entity. This means that all co-owners have an equal and undivided ownership interest in the property. One key feature of joint tenancy is the right of survivorship. If one of the co-owners passes away, their share automatically transfers to the surviving co-owners, regardless of any instructions in their will. As a result, the last surviving co-owner will eventually become the sole owner of the property.
Tenancy in Common
Tenancy in Common, on the other hand, allows for distinct and separate ownership interests among co-owners. Each co-owner holds a specific portion of the property, and their ownership can be equal or unequal. Importantly, there is no right of survivorship in tenancy in common. When a co-owner dies, their share passes according to their Will or follows the laws in the Intestate Succession Act, rather than automatically to the other co-owners.
The right of survivorship is also applicable when LGBTQ+ individuals have joint bank accounts or investment accounts.
In Singapore, the Intestate Succession Act governs the distribution of assets in the absence of a Will or Nomination for CPF savings and insurance policies. This may not align with the individual’s wishes. Additionally, family expectations and cultural norms can sometimes clash with an individual’s wishes, making it essential to have a legally binding document that outlines their intentions.
To ensure there is proper planning in place for asset distribution, here are some recommended ways to get started:
1. Set up your CPF nomination online
The distribution of CPF Savings cannot be governed using a Will. An active CPF nomination will reduce unnecessary administrative costs and longer processing time.
2. Set up the revocable nominations for insurance policies
The revocable nomination framework allows the policyholders to revoke and create a new one whenever there are changes to the beneficiaries.
3. Set up a Will to take care of assets that are not covered by CPF and insurance nominations.
Proper Will planning will ensure a clause for it to not supersede the active insurance nominations. And substitute executors and beneficiaries can be mentioned in the Will to prepare for contingency situations. Once a Will is set up, the next step is to do up the Schedule of Assets as this will help to list down clearly the assets one has; this should be printed out and attached to the Will. And whenever there are changes to the assets, the Schedule of Assets needs to be amended with a printed copy attached to the Will.
Protection of Non-Biological Children
LGBTQ+ individuals and couples have children through adoption, surrogacy, or other arrangements. Estate planning ensures that these children are legally protected and provided for after their parents’ passing. Without a clear plan in place, there could be disputes over guardianship and financial support.
Setting up a Will allows the appointment of a guardian to take care of the children and also have custody over the children. Financial support for the children can be planned out using a Trust if the wish is to allow an independent entity to manage the financial support to the children.
Medical and Financial Decision-Making
Estate planning also involves creating documents like a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). LPA allows an individual to appoint someone they trust to make medical and financial decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. For LGBTQ+ individuals, having these documents in place can prevent potential conflicts with family members who might not be supportive.
As part of estate planning, an Advance Medical Directive (AMD) is a legal document that you sign beforehand to inform the doctor treating you (in the event you become terminally ill and unconscious) that you do not want any extraordinary life-sustaining treatment to be used to prolong your life.
In Singapore, just like anywhere else, we all have dreams, people we care about, and things we’ve worked hard for. For the LGBTQ+ community, these hopes and connections are just as vital, if not more. That’s where estate planning comes in, to make sure those dreams and the people you cherish are taken care of, no matter what.
Without proper estate planning, there can be confusion and even conflicts. For instance, if you’re in a same-sex relationship, the law might not automatically recognise your partner’s right to inherit your assets. But with the right plans in place, you can make sure they’re provided for, just like any other couple.
Estate planning isn’t just about money and possessions. It’s about taking care of each other, whether it’s about deciding who can make medical choices for you if you can’t, or ensuring that your wishes are respected when it comes to medical treatments. It’s also a way to make sure that your chosen family, the people who have stood by you through thick and thin, are given the recognition and support they deserve.
So, whether it’s through Wills, Trusts, or other legal tools, estate planning helps you shape your legacy. It’s a way of saying that your love and your life matter, and that you want to protect and provide for the ones you care about, no matter who you are or whom you love. It’s about giving yourself peace of mind today and your loved ones security for tomorrow.