Deathbed Wills: Wishing No Ill Will to Those Too Ill to Will

What is a will?

A will is a legal instrument in which a person, the testator, specifies the method to be applied in the management and distribution of his estate as well as in carrying out his or her wishes after death. In Singapore, wills are governed by the Wills Act.

What is a deathbed will?

A deathbed will is a legal instrument created and executed when the testator is terminally ill, hospitalised and is facing imminent death.

What to include in a (deathbed) will?

A testator should have a list on all property, possessions and money and all liabilities. He or she should include the beneficiaries who will inherit the estate and how much they will receive, the executors who will handle the estate after death, a revocation clause which will revoke all previous wills and codicils as well as a residuary clause which will handle bequests which are void due to death of a beneficiary.

What happens if you don’t leave a (deathbed) will?

If a will has not been written up or is declared invalid, the person will have died intestate, resulting in the distribution of the assets according to the law of the country in which he or she was residing in at the time of his or her death. In Singapore, these rules are outlined in section 7 of the Intestate Succession Act.





Parent and issue (Lineal descendants such as children, grandchildren)

Spouse entitled to whole of the estate

Spouse and issue

Spouse entitled to one-half of the estate, issue gets the other half in equal portions



Issue entitled to equal portions of estate; grandchildren to get their parent’s share if their parent is already dead

Spouse and parent/s


Spouse entitled to one-half of the estate, parent/s get the other half of the estate in equal portions


Spouse and issue

Parent/s entitled to whole of the estate in equal portions

Brothers and sisters as well as children of deceased brothers or sisters

Spouse, issue and parents

Brothers and sisters entitled to whole of the estate in equal portions; children of deceased brother or sister to get their parent’s share in equal portions


Spouse, issue, parents, brothers and sisters or children of such brothers and sisters

Grandparents entitled to whole of the estate in equal portions

Uncles and aunts

Spouse, issue, parents, brothers and sisters or their children and grandparents

Uncles and aunts entitled to whole of the estate in equal portions


Spouse, issue, parents, brothers and sisters or their children, grandparents, uncles and aunts

Government entitled to whole of the estate


It is to be noted that the Act does not apply to the estate of any Muslims. In the case of any Muslim person residing in Singapore dying intestate, the estate shall be distributed according to Muslim law (faraid) and administered by the Syariah Court.

How can a (deathbed) will be valid?

A (deathbed) will is valid if it is executed with the formalities required by the country in which the person resided. In Singapore, this means that the will must be in writing, signed at the foot by the testator or by a person in the presence and direction of the testator, witnessed in the presence of at least two witnesses and also signed by the witnesses in the presence of the testator. It is also valid if approved by a medical practitioner who is satisfied of the testamentary capacity and understanding of the testator and who has recorded his findings in a memo.

What is testamentary capacity?

To have testamentary capacity, the testator must understand the nature of making a will and its effects, have a general idea of the extent of the estate he or she is disposing, have knowledge of the persons for whom he or she would usually be expected to provide (even if he or she chooses not to) and must be free from any delusion of the mind that would influence him or her to make bequests in the will that he or she would not otherwise have included.

How can a (deathbed) will be challenged?

A deathbed will, as mentioned above, is prepared close to death. Although it is a type of will that is valid and legally binding, it is prone to errors for several reasons.

a)     The rushed and hastily drawn will may fail to properly distribute the assets as the testator intended

b)    The will may be invalidated if it does not meet a certain legal requirement such as having the requisite number of signatures from witnesses who are not related to the testator and do not seek to benefit from the will

c)     The testator may fail to appoint executors to administer his or her estate in accordance to the instructions of the will

Disappointed beneficiaries, who feel that they have been unfairly overlooked, will contend that the testator lacked sufficient mental and decision-making capacity or that the will was subjected to undue influence, mistake or fraud.

How to prevent successful challenges to a (deathbed) will?

It would be helpful to keep statements from the witnesses present at the time. These statements can include whether the testator was fully aware of what he or she was doing, whether anyone appeared to be controlling or manipulating the testator and whether the testator had an idea of what he or she possessed and who his or her beneficiaries will be. This is because after a certain amount of time had passed, witnesses may not be able to remember the events clearly and may give conflicting and unreliable accounts.  

Furthermore, you should ensure that your will is properly drafted and executed, video record the will signing, have a doctor certify testamentary capacity in the testator and remove the appearance of undue influence by having no family members present at the discussion and signing of the will. These will likely prevent a will contest from succeeding.

How can we help?

Writing a will, be it at the last minute, allows you to have your assets divided up according to your wishes, saving a lot of unnecessary expense, distress and hassle for your family after your death.

At I.R.B Law LLP, we have an experienced team of lawyers who are able to guide you through the drafting process, complex state laws and complicated circumstances. We are able to able to help prevent challenges to your (deathbed) will, allowing you and your family to have a peace of mind.

Should you be in a position where you may need our assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us at or call us at 6589 8913 so that we can advise you on your matter.

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