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Does your will cover everything it should?

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Protect your loved ones by making a will, says Annette M. Houlihan.

As we all know, a will is a legal document that instructs your survivors to distribute your possessions, including assets, to the people you want them to go to. Imagine how valuable it is to your loved ones.

If you do not have a will, you become intestate when you die, which means the authorities decide how your wealth is distributed. They may also decide on the guardianship of your orphaned children. Very often, this process can take years to finalise.

In your will, you need to have executor/s who are the people in charge of your estate and of collecting your assets for distribution. A spouse is usually granted this task on the first level but in case you are with your spouse when the unthinkable happens, you should consider contingents of these (siblings or best friends are often named). We advise at least two levels of executors.

Guardians are also vital if you have minor children or dependants. If mum and dad go away on a trip and don’t return, who will look after them? If the guardians you appoint live overseas, then you also need to appoint a temporary guardian in Hong Kong. You need to allow your permanent guardians time to fly in.

Beneficiaries are also normally our spouse on the first level, then our children as contingents. Although it is a horrible thought, you should also consider who would inherit past your children. Nieces and nephews are often named. We recommend at least one level of contingent beneficiaries past your children.

The will itself should be clear and simple, making it easy for the Court of Probate to release your assets. If you have special requirements, a letter/ Expression of Wishes can accompany your will for your executors to follow. Although this document is not legally binding, you can you use it to detail any specific instructions, for instance educational or spiritual, regarding your children.

What you have to be aware of, however, is that a will takes time to be read in the Court of Probate. In Hong Kong, it takes an average of six to eight weeks for the authorities simply to open a will. Distribution of wealth can take months, even years with a will in place – just imagine where your loved ones would be without one.

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Annette M. Houlihan, an 18-year DB resident, is managing director of Central-based financial advisory firm Carey, Suen & Associates. You can contact her at annette@careysuen.com for a no-obligation discussion or call her on 9160 7855.

Photo by evoqueportraits.com.

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