When writing your Will, one of the important consideration is choosing your beneficiary or beneficiaries.
A Last Will & Testament is a vital tool which helps protect your family while distributing your assets based on your priorities. From passing down your house to selecting a guardian to look after your kids, a Will makes your wishes come true after you pass.
To those wondering what a beneficiary of a Will is: well, this refers to a person whom you choose to inherit your assets when you die which may include your properties, cars, cash and other belongings.
However, when it comes to deciding who to choose as a beneficiary, it can be a difficult question, especially when you are not sure who can be included in your Will.
It is important to note that this is a different question to “Who must be included in my Will?”. We will address this in a future post.
In general, anybody can be a beneficiary but there are some exceptions.
Here is what you need to know before choosing your beneficiaries:
1 The beneficiary must not be responsible for your death
A Will allows you to do great things with your legacy, according to your wishes. Therefore, it goes without saying that a major restriction for a beneficiary is that they cannot be someone who is criminally responsible for your death!
2 A beneficiary cannot be a witness to the signing of the Will
A witness is someone who is present during the signing of your Will.
In Malaysia, in order to ensure your Will is valid, there must be at least 2 witnesses who are above the age of 21.
Therefore, it makes sense that someone who will materially benefit from the contents of your Will cannot be a witness, in some jurisdictions even the spouse of a witness.
3 A beneficiary can be an Executor of the Will
An Executor is someone who you have selected to fulfill your wishes and ensure your assets are distributed. The difference between an Executor and a witness is that the Executor can also be a beneficiary in your Will. This means you may even appoint your child to be an Executor of your Will.
4 A beneficiary can be a person or an organization anywhere in the world
As mentioned, you are free to leave your possessions to any person or organization from different parts of the world. In terms of family, you can distribute your assets however you like.
A certain family member can have your properties while another may be given your cash. It all depends on who you feel will be responsible for your belongings and will honour your wishes.
Even if any of your family members are not living in the same country as you, you are still able to choose them as a beneficiary in your Will.
Your child can also be a beneficiary even if they are still minor. This would just mean their inheritance will be held in a trust until they become adults or reach a certain age specified by you in the terms of trust, to receive their full inheritance.
On the other hand, if you have a sum of money or a particular asset that you wish to leave to an organization, you can! This list includes charities that you support, schools or even religious institutions which are not restricted by location.
Therefore, organizations you choose can also be on the other side of the world and it will not be an issue.
5 A pet cannot be named a beneficiary in your Will
Even if you love your pets and think of them as family, unfortunately, pets are regarded as your property.
So you are free to set up a pet trust which enables the carer of your pets to access funds to look after them which may include medical bills, food and pet care items.
In most cases, individuals designate a certain sum to a person that will look after their pets, with the understanding that they will use the funds to care for the pets.
Choosing beneficiaries for your Will is an individual decision. It should reflect who you want to leave your assets behind too. As long as you have taken care of your primary responsibilities, your estate can be divided to anyone or any organization. Therefore, as always at WillsMalaysia, we encourage people to be creative with their legacy as it is an opportunity to do great things. If you wish to know more about writing Wills, be sure to catch our future blog posts.