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Singapore - Financial File

A checklist for the family documents and assets

General Information
Why is it important to have The Family File and to keep it updated?
The twist and turns of life are unpredictable and if a tragedy occurs in a foreign country, it is dangerous to assume that the 'system' works in the same way as that of your own country. You need to be aware of the differences and how they could affect your life and that of your children. Creating The Family File gives you peace of mind. You know what you have, where everything is and how to give access to others should the need arise.

Every move will bring the need to update The Family File . For example, your will may not be valid in the new country of residence unless it is registered with a lawyer or a notary, or changed to adapt it to the local requirements. Tax exposure in the event of death abroad is another important element to keep in mind. The financial nightmare that could follow, if steps have not been taken to be prepared, could threaten the future of your family.

Here is a brief check list to find out if you have everything in order.
You are prepared for the worst if you know:
- How much money you need to live and raise your family in the case of death or disablility of your working partner
- You have your papers in order and ready to be passed on. Papers, that clearly state your wishes for your 
   family. These include: financial, tax, investment and estate planning documents (wills, trusts etc).
- Your family income and expenses, your assets and your liabilities
- You are aware of income taxes and have a legal, but aggressive, plan in place to reduce the cost to the
   minimum required
- You are aware of company and government benefits and if you are an expatriate you need to know about more than one government
- You are aware of return on investment you can undertake to secure your and your family's financial 
- You are already funding your retirement and your children's education.

Are You Prepared? 
Paguro has also compiled for you a list of the most important documents to be kept updated when you move around the world. If you know it all and more, we would like to hear from you. Send us your comments using the feedback button.

Everybody in the family has to have a clear idea of the kind of financial arrangements and, most vitally, where the documentation is kept. This includes the person chosen to manage the family assets should both parents die.

A suggestion is; to create The Family File so as to be prepared for the unknown future and be sure that all your financial information (mortgage, life insurance etc.) and non financial (wills) information are kept safely together.  It is also important to inform your dependents and all the parties involved of the the File's location or forward a certified copy to her/him. This excercise is also useful in daily life, since it allows you to monitor your financial situation more easily.

Health Insurance 
First: do you have health insurance? If yes, what kind of a coverage do you have?
If you are on a company pension scheme, then you need to find out which sickness coverage is already provided, which private medical insurance is available and if it meets your needs.
Choosing private medical insurance for long-term health care could be a good choice. The population is growing older and the availability of state-care funded by governments is likely to decrease - though still a personal option.

Life Insurance
Carefully assess the protection your family will have in case of the employee's death. As a rule of thumb a sum ten times one's salary should be the amount of life coverage required to adequately protect dependents.
Then establish precisely which policies are already in existence and which benefits would be available from the company's pension scheme.  (It will tell you if a further coverage is needed). Where life insurance policies are involved, check if they are written in trust. This means the proceeds can be paid directly to the trustees for the beneficiaries, rather than having to wait for probate to be granted or laws of intestacy to prevail if no will has been made.

If you have a mortgage, it is important for you to know what type of mortgage you have, what you are paying and where the paperwork, relating to the arrangements, is.

Other Assets
In the event of the death of a married employee, the spouse has to know what paperwork is required in order to gain access to:

Discounted stock options
Incentive stock options
Life insurance

Generally speaking the spouse has to provide a copy of the employee's death certificate - certified in the country of death.  Make sure that your working spouse ascertains that the company has on file beneficiary forms listing the employee's named beneficiaries for pension, profit sharing and life insurance.  (In some countries it may not automatically be the spouse or the children.)

For stock options, it is preferable for the employee to have a last will and testament.  This is not an absolute requirement but without it, the exercise by the spouse in some jurisdictions can be delayed.  Stock options do not always have a beneficiary designation, so check with your company! 

The best piece of advice is to ensure that beneficiary designations  are current for the working spouse's life insurance, pension and profit sharing plans. They could be separate for each of these plans.

If you have been working for different companies, this means that a variety of pension benefits may be accrued, and it is essential to know:
- Which benefits you have accrued
- What you are hoping to achieve
-  How to take advantage of the available tax concessions

If you have been in company pension schemes, make sure you receive information from them as to which benefit you will be entitled to at retirement.
The picture gets even more unclear when you or your spouse have not only worked for different companies, but in different countries as well. In some countries, you may not have paid a private entity but the government (like in Norway, France or Italy).  Working in multiple countries does cause some problems.  It has been said that companies exist which supposedly go through the paperwork nightmare of collating all these schemes into one unique scheme, but at the moment a list of names is elusive. Do they really exist?
Ask yourself, "If I were to retire now, what level of income would I need?" 
This is a good start for pension planning.  Do not forget about inflation before and after you retire! It also helps to consider where you are, where you want to be and to appreciate the steps necessary to bridge the gap. Include in your calculations any personal pension policies you have subscribed to, check the death benefits of these policies as well. Governments normally provide tax concessions on all forms of pensions and you should have several options. Take those into account as well.

Since pension planning is a long-term exercise, the earlier you start, the less financially heavy it will be. Most people do realize the severity of the impact only when it actually happens. To avoid being one of those, take your time and review all the existing arrangements, list where all the documentation is and take note if any further action is needed.

Most people have bank and building society accounts, but do your dependents know where to find all the details?
What other savings do you have? Stocks and shares, national savings, endowment policies etc. Keeping track of all these things is essential both for personal and tax reasons. Trying to find the policy for the endowment which is about to mature, could be a time consuming and a challenging process. If you have everything in The Family File, a glance will give you all the information you need. Furthermore, this gives you the possibility to assess if your savings are achieving your set goals.

Filing a tax return is a daunting task, filing it in a foreign country certainly can add to the stress. Keep a file of all the documents needed, from the documentation about the details of interest paid on your bank account, to where to find the tax credit vouchers from share dividends, and so on. Living in a different country to your own can give you the advantage of having more options tax-wise, With the help of an expert in international tax planning, you can select the option that is more advantageous for you. This 'creative tax plannning' is an area that is now being explored by companies to offer their employees first class advice on how to come ahead of the game instead of being overwhelmed by it.

You might have not considered having a will simply because you believe that your dependents will automatically inherit. Well, let's get real! Without the clear instructions of a will, one should not assume  that the distribution of your wealth is going to happen as you envision. For example, Texas law is very clear about guardianship. If there are no instructions (a will or other) and both the parents die, the children are assigned to a tutor by the government. If you are in a foreign country (and this happens often to you, doesn't it?), the rules could be different to those in your home country or to your last country of residence and your dependents may find themselves in deep trouble without a will. Make one now! It is imperative for both husband and wife. If you have a will, is it up-to-date? Have you reviewed it at regular intervals or whenever a major change of circumstance has occurred (marriage, divorce, new business arrangements etc.)? Do you, your dependants or executors know where it is? Make sure you inform your dependents and any other party involved, how to locate it and who your lawyer is.

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