This familiar phrase has been around a long time. Since 1640 in fact when an author by the name of George Herbert coined a phrase ‘To him that will, ways are not wanting.’ The modern version, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” appeared in “New Monthly Magazine” in 1822.
The phrase can be applied to any aspect of our lives. In the field of health it could apply to someone who wants desperately to give up smoking or lose weight for example. Millions would testify that neither is an easy task. The first step is to develop a solid will to succeed that is strong enough to overcome all the excuses and objections that will stand in the way of meeting the objective. Having that will to succeed is a mindset that is essential for success.
In the field of financial planning, how often have you said you would curtail your spending and put cash away for the future? How many people have recognised that once retired they will not be able to enjoy the same lifestyle or even a decent standard of living, yet fail to build up a sizable pension during their working years when they have the ability to do so? Of course it’s not that easy when there are so many other demands on your income during your working life. A pension is the easiest item to put aside when you have other pressures.
For many, retirement is such a long way off that providing for it becomes a very low priority. Yet the cost of delay can be dramatic. Starting at age 50 to provide for a decent pension could take half your income, whereas if you started below the age of 30 you could build up the same pension pot using less than a tenth of your income. Much depends on inflation, market performance and such like but the principle is the same. Many young people don’t even see the point in saving for a pension. They believe that their government will look after them or they will be left a fortune by their parents. If they don’t change their mindset they could be in for a rude awakening.
The bottom line is that it takes a lot of will power to achieve desirable objectives.
But ‘Will’ has another meaning!
The English language is strange in that a word can have several different meanings. In the case of ‘Will’, not only does it denote having the ‘will’-power to achieve an objective but it is also a word placed in front of a verb to denote the future tense. Example: ‘I will go’ (in the future) as opposed to ‘I go’ (now). But there is yet another meaning which is related to a provision made for one’s assets upon death. A ‘Will’ in this context means ‘a legal declaration of a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property or estate after death.’
The pandemic has brought a lot of suffering to the world and those living in Bali have felt the brunt of the economic impact. But almost all parts of the world have seen sickness and death on a scale that two years ago could never have been imagined. When I last visited Bali the pandemic was relatively fresh news. I knew of no actual person who had suffered the illness let alone died of it. Was it a real threat? Now of course, like most readers I know of many people, including family and friends, who have gone sick and some of whom have not survived.
It has made us aware of our own mortality. And perhaps how we should be better prepared for it. No-one likes to talk about death and I never like raising the issue during a financial fact-find. Yet it is sometimes the only opportunity a person has to initiate action to make provision for the inevitable. I am talking about a will of course. If properly drawn-up it will ensure that the person’s assets upon death will pass to the people he or she wishes to benefit from the will. Should the person die ‘intestate’ (without a will) the assets will pass in accordance with the relevant laws. The distribution may not be in line with what the person would have wished.
In normal circumstances, people grow old over time and gradually suffer more ailments as they age. This is when many realise they should put their house in order and draw up a will. But sometimes people die suddenly and in the world of Covid-19 few would be able to even think of the subject when they are carted off in the ambulance.
Even when a will is in place the process of clearing Probate and distributing assets can be a long one. Without a will, the process is considerably greater and can become a second tragedy adding to the loss of a loved one. Many expatriates living in Bali are married to Indonesians. This adds further complexity to the process, although in many cases the situation is simplified if local assets are held solely in the name of the Indonesian partner. But if there are assets overseas the situation becomes more complicated, especially if they lie in several jurisdictions, each of which will require Probate before assets can be released.
How do you establish a will?
While I could give some guidance where British expats are concerned and while for them it is possible to write a simple will that would be recognised if it satisfies certain criteria I would strongly recommend that legal advice is sought in the home country’s jurisdiction. It may be appropriate to establish wills in more than one jurisdiction as long as they do not contradict each other. Normally an Executor is appointed who could be a family member or it could be a law firm that holds the will. If you have assets in Indonesia then most certainly you should consult a law firm or notary.
For some expats, an alternative to a will could be a Trust where the Trustees are responsible for the execution of the deceased’s requests as determined in a ‘Letter of Wishes’. The word ‘Wishes’ is deliberate as the Trustees have the right to disregard the ‘wishes’ in extreme circumstances. This is a very British concept that goes back to the days of the Crusades in the 12th century when a crusader would leave his properties in the hands of appointed Trustees until his safe return. Not all countries recognise the Trust concept however and it is not recognised in Indonesia.
A couple of hours or so spent drawing up and establishing a will can save months of toil and frustration on the part of family members left behind, not to mention potential litigation and huge legal bills. People do tend to leave will-writing as a chore to be carried out at leisure some time in the future but while the grim reaper is on skates it would do no harm to bring that chore forward. Peace of mind is a side-benefit.
In the meantime, get your jabs, follow the rules and stay safe!
Colin Bloodworth, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (UK), has spent over 20 years in Indonesia. He is based in Jakarta but visits Bali regularly in normal times! If you have any questions on this article or related topics or would like to receive a free monthly newsletter on financial matters you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2021 Colin Bloodworth