HYDERABAD: Here’s a question to all income earners: Do you have a Will?
Most of us assume that writing a Will is for the super rich or a deed that needs to be done on your death bed. You are wrong on both counts.
One may not even realise, but unknowingly, we’d have started on a succession plan (nominating beneficiaries in your life insurance policy, fixed deposits etc), but wealth distribution will remain incomplete without a proper Will.
Interestingly, making a Will is the easiest thing. Anyone above 21 years can write a Will on just a plain paper, unlike a stamp paper that’s the norm for any legal document. A Will may ideally be written in your own hand writing for authenticity, and needs to be signed by two independent witnesses, who aren’t beneficiaries of your wealth (including witnesses’ spouses).
A Will can be either a registered or unregistered document, has no prescribed format to be followed, but needs to be properly signed on all pages, and the time and date should be indicated at the bottom of it. You can enclose it in a sealed envelope, which too must bear your signature and date. A registered Will cannot be viewed without the maker’s written permission on who should view it.
One may wonder about the purpose of a Will if you have already nominated beneficiaries for your financial savings. A Will encompasses more than that and includes assets like gold, property, precious articles and other high-value belongings.
Moreover, out of habit or without much thought, you may have nominated your spouse for some assets, but its intended for your children; or you may have nominated your children, but they no longer need it and you may want your other family members to be the beneficiaries. Though nominees can be changed any number of times, chances are that you never got around it. A Will supersedes all such nominations.
In India, the laws of inheritance and financial succession are complicated and diverse based on religion. For instance, in case of Hindus, all rights on inherited property are acquired by birth and no ancestral property can be assigned through a Will to anyone other than legal heirs.
Currently, there are three succession laws: Hindu Succession Act 1956, (applicable to Hindus, Jains, Buddhist and Sikhs), Indian Succession Act 1925, (application to Christians, Jews and Parsis) and Mohammedan Personal Laws for Muslims.
So, when should you write one? If it is written when you are too young, make sure to update it from time to time and nullify all the previous ones. If you have made the Will a little too late in your life, your medical and mental fitness levels come under scrutiny and can invite legal trouble for heirs.
Also, make sure to mention an executor, who has to administer the deceased person’s wealth. If you wish, a Will can be executed in the presence of a Magistrate or a public notary nominated by the government.