As a staunch Christian, I make no attempt to suggest that I am an ally or always have been an ally to LGBT groups.
But as a Christian and a Financial Coach, my priority ultimately lies in showing the community that I care about them through the competency of my actions from the love of Christ.
Gay men have a range of unique problems that are simply not the same as heterosexuals, and they require more identification and complex problem solving - especially in relation to major financial decisions around:
4) Estate Planning
I've had extremely close friendships with the LGBT community, in particular - gay men. Over the course of my career, I've found myself having a few clients in this area every year.
I'm really not sure why, but I've started to suspect it's similar to why software engineers tend to like me even though I'm quite a tech-fail. I tend to take greater interest in people who are so similar yet having one or two major key differences from me.
It's kind of like the road less taken. So I get really emotionally invested and I've studied many of the common financial problems they could have had since as early as 2017, with opportunities to apply my learnings as early as 2019.
Here are some of the questions I tend to get.
Q1: Singapore won't allow me to get married here. But if I get married overseas, could I come back here as a married man to apply for things?
It's quite unlikely that the marriage would be recognized, frankly, especially if both of you are locals.
It's possible if both, or one of you is a foreigner that got married in a country which legally allowed for same-sex marriage, but that would also include being domiciled (living) in that country, not in Singapore - so it wouldn't really help with the things that you're looking for (e.g., buying a HDB with grants).
You would be a lot safer preparing a lot more money or using financial instruments to accelerate this process.
I'm quite confident in this answer broadly, but a lawyer would probably be more familiar with your specific situation.
Q2: I moved out of Singapore to get married overseas, but I am looking at divorce. Since our marriage may not be recognized in Singapore, what happens in regard to those assets here?
Even if a divorce has been litigated overseas, the Women’s Charter empowers the court to make financial ancillary orders and does not specify that the original marriage has to be first recognized by Singapore law. As such, there is a possibility of applying to the Singapore Court to request that financial orders are made. If a cohabitation contract has been made out (see below), at least some of it would be proof of intention for the Courts to reasonably sort that out.
This used to be more applicable to women same-sex couples but would potentially work out for men after 377A's repeal.
However, outside of the case studies - this remains untested as a consensus (basically applies in every situation) for same-sex marriages/divorces. So if you didn't structure or arrange those assets in a manner that protects yourself, you may find yourself in a challenging ambiguous situation.
Under Singapore law, only wives (and husbands in very few circumstances) may receive maintenance. For a divorced male couple, maintenance would generally be denied flat even if their original marriage got recognized, which also hasn't quite been tested yet since 377A wasn't repealed that long ago.
3. Can I (Gay, Male), a sole owner of a HDB, will my flat to my Gay Partner?
No. According to HDB Inheritance rules, it needs to be a family member or spouse/children, with the other standard eligibility criteria such as age. Here are some links that confirm this.
4. Alternatively, can I Will the HDB to be sold when I pass away and will the proceeds to my partner?
Yes. You can write this in your Will as a specific gift.
This can take a little longer and the general financial considerations that typically apply to passing property down to children should also be considered - for example, if there are others living with you or someone else contributed to the mortgage outside of the two of you.
Unless there is some understanding amongst the family, it is possible that this Will could be contested. (see below)
5. What are some common problems and solutions for the financial challenges that I'm facing when it comes to my (serious) relationship?
1) Cohabitation Contract: Problem + Solution
Since marriage isn't permitted, it's quite natural for partners to find an amicable way to divide assets in the event of disagreement.
Having a written contract is helpful to make clear what assets belong to who, who will be responsible for what, other liabilities and entitlements - and generally would likely reduce the length of any final dispute.
It isn't a formal title, but the lawyer you get to help you draft it would understand it as a 'cohabitation contract.'
But Cohabitation Contracts are largely untested in Singapore law, and hence there is no reassurance that such a contract is likely to be enforced in Court.
2) Death and Succession
There are many potential issues faced in death and succession, but the most common line of solutions I end up providing is in relation to the same-sex couples' discretion.
Succession failure due to discretion is not particularly uncommon, even amongst straight couples. There are many case studies of illegitimate children or mistresses hidden away somewhere that require similar solutions.
For gay men, a good majority of men may have opted to stay in the closet permanently, never anticipating a situation where their parents would outlive them.
If assets have not been accounted, structured and included in a way that doesn't conflict with general law, the surviving partner will likely see a loss in assets.
3) Home Purchase Matters:
Almost all of my clients have expressed great anxiety and stress during the time they were living at home. If they had already come out to their families, certain relationships could be in constant tension. If they were in the closet, they could have a lot of internal frustration and anxiety.
This is further exacerbated by local law not permitting them to purchase property except private or through JSS (Joint Singles Scheme).
With few exceptions, every one of my gay clients
a) moved out early via rental
b) with their partner's existing owned property or
c) overseas, which likely included (a) or (b) anyway.
The combination of the anxiety, law and relationship stresses often resulted in pretty poor financial management in regard to the home.
I've seen cases where siblings were involved in helping buy property early, disputes over rental occurred, money wasn't returned after contributing to a property because the partner had no obligation after the breakup, etc.
Basic Problem Solving
1) Professional Will Writing:
Aside from a clearer distribution of assets, clauses that integrate various laws and acts would be essential in ensuring there is no clash in your wishes for passing on your money.
For a Will to be uncontested, it has to fulfill specific criteria that can be integrated into the Will upon completion, not simply filling out a checklist or template.
It would be disastrous if the will turned out to be invalid due to poor execution, or more likely a 'Don't know what you don't know' situation.
Straight couples tend to underestimate succession issues. Similarly, if both men are reasonably successful and eventually own a private property each - even if they both wrote valid Wills such that the other would inherit the property, problems can occur.
This would incur stamp duties from the sale, transaction costs, emotional losses and a likely reduced sale amount from the rushed nature of needing to comply with law.
There are variations of this problem for private property and other assets, where you may be causing administrative and financial problems for your partner in your death, rather than providing for them.
Insurance solves such problems quickly because you need to account for these things, as well as the actual outstanding mortgage (if any) and it delivers the payout much faster than Ordinary Law (through ISA or Probate).
Rather than seeing yourself as 'having insurance already', it's important for an analysis to determine 'how much insurance is really enough for my unique situation?'
3) Asset Analysis and Restructuring: Most of this is important in order to ensure the success of the Cohabitation contract as a complementary aspect, so that money isn't lost in the event of a breakup or death.
With a combination of analysis and financial instruments, it's quite possible to optimize a couples assets to ensure that either situation has an equitable result.
While this article is extremely public, discretion is a priority for me to serve clients. I would never hurt you by violating your privacy unnecessarily unless it were for your eventual financial benefit.
My company and collaborators offers all the solutions above [Will Writing, Insurance, Asset Analysis and Restructuring], if you are interested or have friends who you believe may be interested.
If there is more demand for such articles, I'd be happy to write on the slightly greater range of topics such as:
1) LGBT planning for Muslims
2) LGBT planning for families (same-sex couples with children) I have had requests to also do a private livestream, as I can answer your questions directly. I would likely not do it unless there were many messages/high demand for it.
If you're interested in any of the above, do feel free to drop me a message in the links below or to share this article.
1) The various links posted 2) SamebutDifferent Legal Guidebook