Pandemic has made us aware that nothing is permanent. A proper succession plan for your assets in untimely death is as essential as investing in the right avenues. In India, middle-class families are very lax about will and succession planning. They do not consider it a part of their financial planning. This article focusses on essential aspects of will and how a simple will can save your family from unnecessary hassle and disputes.
What is a will, and who can make a will?
A will is basically a document in which a living person mentions his wishes and how his wealth will be distributed after his death. Any person above the age of 18 years and is of sound mind can prepare a will. Even blind and deaf people can also make a will with a legal guardian. It can be a handwritten or typed document. Everyone must prepare a will to ensure seamless transfer of assets after death. However, preparing a will become especially important in the following cases:
- If you suspect that there may be a dispute over your assets after your death.
- If you want to distribute your assets to any person or institution other than your family members.
- If you have minor children and you want to appoint a guardian for them after your death.
Meaning of some common terms used in the will
Generally, people get turned off by the legal terminology involved in making of the will. Let us decode some common terms that get used as below:
- Testator: The person who makes the will.
- Executor: The person who fulfils the task of liquidating the assets, discharging the liabilities, and distributing the net assets after the testator’s death. This person generally is a close relative or confidant of the testator and is named in the will.
- Legatee: The beneficiaries under the will, i.e., the persons named as heirs for the testator’s assets after his death.
- Codicil: A supplementary document that is signed by the testator and attached to the will. A codicil is considered part of the will.
- Probate: Copy of the will be certified by Court. Acts as conclusive evidence on the genuineness of the will.
How to make a will
Generally, when people think about a will, they think they have to engage a lawyer and pay a hefty fee for this work. It is far from the truth. Basically, you can draft a will yourself from the comfort of your home. It can simply be on plain paper and signed by two independent witnesses. The witnesses basically confirm that you have prepared the will in sound mind and in their presence.
There is no defined format as such for a will. Several templates are available online, which you can customise as per your requirement. You need to basically list all your assets and liabilities like a house, bank accounts, shares, etc. In the will, you need to clearly state who will receive each asset, and in the case of multiple persons, you need to mention their respective ratios. You can also have a residual clause to assign any assets other than those mentioned in the will.
Registration of will
It is a common misconception that you need to register a will for it to be held valid. You do not need to register the will. Registering will basically help in establishing its authenticity if it gets challenged in a court of law. Hence, it is advisable to register a will if you suspect that there can be a fight over the will’s validity. For registration of will, you need to visit the Sub Registrar’s office along with the witnesses. Stamp duty is not applicable on will, so there is no need to execute a will on a stamp paper. Once you register the will, you can safe-keep the same in a sealed envelope (superscribed in your name) with the Registrar.
Other points on the will
- Drafting a will does not mean you cannot change it later. You can change your will an unlimited number of times till your death. To avoid any doubt, each time you make a new will, mention that it supersedes all existing wills that you have made until then.
- For financial assets, it is helpful if the person to whom you wish to pass on the asset is added as a nominee or joint account holder
- For immovable property, try to avoid naming two or more people as heirs as it can create disputes between joint holders of that property after your death.
- Nomination of flat with the housing society only makes the nominee a trustee to the property. Hence, don’t forget to mention his name and property details in your will.
- Prefer to have witnesses other than legatees or close relatives to avoid any challenge regarding the will’s authenticity. Also, make sure the witnesses sign all the pages of a will.
A simple will can save your spouse from running pillar to post to claim ownership of investments. It can also save your family members years and decades of animosity and disputes. Though the topic of writing a will can be uneasy for many, the benefits of a clearly written will outweigh the effort involved. You can quickly draft your will from the comfort of your home or seek expert consultation from a lawyer. Drafting the will is not enough. You need to also keep it updated and fresh to reflect your changing financial position.
Plan your financial future using