In my interactions with few people, I have heard a lot of questions about the need of Will and the lack of awareness of the same. So, this week, I decided to prepare a write up on such an important topic of Estate Planning.
Some questions which come up in our mind:
A Will is a written document executed by a sane person during his/her lifetime to voluntarily bequeath (leave) his/her assets to a person of his/her choice, after his/her death. The person who prepares the Will is known as testator. You can change your will as many number of times you wish to change and the latest one will prevail over the earlier ones. Whenever you want to make any changes, you can add, modify or delete the various changes to the Will (called a codicil), or simply re-draft the entire will.
Unfortunately, while a lot of people spend considerable time and effort on earning money and acquiring assets and in their financial planning, one important aspect gets ignored and this is the process of writing a Will. We should write a Will as soon as we have assets and not wait till the latter stages of our life when we know that passing away is certain and is only a matter of time. Life is unpredictable and to ensure smooth transition of our assets, a will makes it easy. What is the use of earning and saving money, when it doesn’t get distributed as per our wishes!
Ironically, a Will has been considered as a taboo subject which doesn’t gets discussed in families. It is shown in movies as something which is done only by the rich and the wealthy wherein a lawyer reads out the Will after the death of a rich businessman. Or that writing a Will is a very complicated process wherein you need to have lawyers and knowledge of the legal terms to prepare it.
Nothing can be farther than the truth. In reality, a Will can be made on a piece of paper and it does not require stamp duty or even registration, though if it is registered in any registering offices / the Sub Registrars, then the authenticity cannot be questioned by anyone. The Will can be registered at any time during the lifetime of the Will maker or even after the death of the testator and such registration helps the beneficiaries of the Will to obtain bequeathed properties without hassles. A medical certificate from a doctor can further support the soundness of mind of the testator (not mandatory at all).
There is no fixed format for writing a will, but it should include the following important aspects:
It is up to the Will maker where he/she wants to keep it. The testators can simply seal it and keep it in a safe place without informing the contents to anyone, but this does the run the risk of nobody knowing after his/her death that a Will existed. The Testators can also keep the Will with their advocate, banker or anybody they trust or can even be kept in a sealed cover in the office of the District Registrar by paying required fees.
That’s it for now. Please do note that this topic is not my expertise and is based only on my reading of various articles on this topic and my interaction with people. You are advised to talk to an expert and get your Will’s completeness validated. Please keep your feedback and comments coming. Do look out for my forthcoming article on Trusts, wherein I will talk about what it is and also the key differences between Will & Trust.
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