Have The Will To Make A Will...
May 12, 2016

Author: PersonalFN Content & Research Team

“Why do I need it so early in my life?” is a question raised by most individuals when asked if they have a Will. “It is for those who have crossed their prime” is the lore one lives with.

Even though one tries to mirror the western way of life, culturally, there appears to be a difference of approach. Asking one’s father, in a well-meaning way, if they have an estate plan in place turn heads and raise eyebrows. As a society, we suffer from a cultural reluctance to discuss succession. It is a taboo.

There are countless stories of family members squabbling and bickering in public to bequeath the estate on the bereavement of the head of the family. But one prefers to turn a blind eye to them. “This won’t happen with me” is the shield generally used. As a society, it may take some time to accept how important it is to have an estate plan in place at an early stage of one’s life.

Wouldn’t it make financial sense to protect the hard earned assets one worked hard to build, most times at the cost of one’s health along the way?

The objective of a Will is to arrange and plan one’s succession and financial affairs making sure it passes on to the intended beneficiaries. The idea is to cut down on court proceedings as much as possible, obtain probates, and provide financial security to one’s family members.

But still there is a common misconception one lives with— Nomination

“I have nominees on all my investments? Do I still need a Will?” Most individuals assume nominees to be a legal heir. Ironically, that’s not true. A nominee receives the proceeds as a trustee for the legal heirs.

“What if there was no estate plan in place? What would happen then?” is a common concern raised by our clients. If one doesn’t have a Will, which means if one were to die intestate; the estate would be distributed according to the succession laws of the country, which are based on one’s religion. A Will made across by a Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh would be governed by the Indian Succession Act, 1925; while a Muslim is governed by the Sharia Law.

This leaves a scope for one’s property to be distributed differently than one’s wishes. So, according to the Hindu Succession Act, assets will be distributed equally among children. However, one may have wished to transfer a part of his/her assets and wealth to charity, or a faithful servant, or a relative/friend. There may be a child with special needs or a widowed daughter who would have benefitted from the extra share of the estate had a well drafted Will been in place. These are the chief reasons to chart a Will .

Though making a Will seems complex, one can write it on a plain piece of paper, choosing the language of writing it (e.g.: English, Hindi, Marathi etc.). Registering a Will isn’t mandatory. In our opinion, it makes sense to register it to avoid questionability on its genuineness. All you need to do is include four parties to a Will:

  • Testator: The individual making the Will mentioning how one wants to dispose of the assets in one’s absence.
  • Beneficiaries: Individuals or organisations to whom the assets will be bequeath after the testator’s bereavement.
  • Witness: Persons countersigning the Will. Ideally, there should be two individuals—a lawyer and a doctor. It is a misconception that they should know the contents of the Will, the law suggests otherwise. Note that, witnesses cannot be beneficiaries to the Will.
  • Executor: He primarily undertakes the responsibility to execute the Will and even obtains probate (wherever required) on the demise of the testator.

While estate planning affects both—men and women, it affects women more drastically. Statistically women live longer than men. Even today, they are expected to cut their career short while starting a family or caring for the old. This leads to lesser savings in the retirement pool and a lot of financial crunch on the bereavement of the primary bread winner.

Writing a Will, at times, is taken for granted and the nuances of law are assumed or overlooked, which may make it void. Taking professional help and trying online portals like-- www.willeffect.in which offer a host of services like writing, safekeeping, registering, and validating the Will would make the process simpler.

Take some time out to make a Will. It’s urgent and important. Have queries? Write to us at fns@personalfn.com.

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