The current pandemic has shown that the fate of anyone isn’t as certain as we would like it to be. This uncertainty has repercussions especially when it comes to earning members of a family. Writing of a will should therefore be part of the basic financial planning process.
What is a will?
It is a legal declaration by a person of how he intends to distribute his properties and personal belongings among people after death. It can be changed or withdrawn anytime during one’s lifetime.
Why write a will?
If someone dies intestate (without writing a will), their property is distributed as per the law applicable for one’s religion. For instance, under the Hindu Succession Act, if a male dies, his property is divided equally between his wife, children and his mother. If you had thought otherwise, then a will helps.
Also, the will supersedes nomination (which only assigns fiduciary responsibilities) at all times and does away with ambiguities and disputes that might arise between the family members.
Who can write a will?
Anyone who is above 18 years and of a sound mind can write a will.
How to write a will?
It can be written on a simple piece of paper (stamp paper not required) and signed by the testator along with a date. A good will clearly delineates the intention of the testator by mentioning the various assets and the proportion in which it is to be distributed among the beneficiaries (family members, charitable trust, friend or otherwise).
In addition, the signature of two witnesses is required and you might also appoint an executor to administer the estate and distribution process. Usually, they are accountants, lawyers or family members of high integrity.
Should you register a Will?
While you can register a will with the sub-registrar of the concerned jurisdiction, it is not compulsory. A sealed cover containing the will and superscribed with the name of the testator should be deposited with the registrar for its safe custody.
While it doesn’t cost much to register a will, there are some advantages. Firstly, in case of doubts arising as regards the authenticity of the will, one can approach the registrar. Also, a copy of the will can be sought, if the will is misplaced.
You can write any number of wills. However, only the last one is enforceable. You can also make changes by registering a new will, revoking the old one or by adding a codicil.
What is Probate of will?
Probate establishes the validity of the will. It is a method under which a will is certified under the seal of a Court with a grant of administration of the estate to the executor of the testator. It is the official evidence of an executor’s authority and is mandatory for immovable properties situated in Mumbai, Calcutta or Chennai. A will can be probated only upon the death of the testator.
Legal experts advise writing concurrent wills if there are properties in India and abroad. Properties situated abroad are governed by their local laws and the procedure to enforce the will in such countries is different from India.
So, if you have a property in India as well as in another country, then it is advisable to prepare two separate wills – one dealing with properties in India (as per Indian laws) and another for properties in that country, as per local laws.
Points to remember
- Only assets that are fully owned (not jointly) can be distributed under a will
- You need to specify assets such as real estate – as to their location, address, so that it may not be confused with others
- Alternates to replace legatees (beneficiaries) are advisable, as they may die before you
- If an unmarried person marries, the will is considered as cancelled or revoked
- If there are new members joining your family or if the executor/witness/guardian has died, you need to change your will
- If the beneficiary is a minor, then a guardian should be appointed to take care of the minor’s property till she turns 18
A will goes a long way to ensure some peace of mind in the event of an unfortunate event. Do this especially if you have children or multiple dependents.