19 May, 2015

Basics of Wills

People often put off drafting their wills as they take it to be a complicated document that’s difficult to write, involving lawyers and courts. But that’s not really the case. Here are practical tips on how to draft a will.

The need

A will is a document which states what a person would like to do with his/her assets, after death. If a person passes away without a will, the assets will be distributed according to the applicable laws, which may not be in accordance with what he or she wishes. If the person is a Hindu, for instance, the Hindu Succession Act applies; there are different rules for males and females. So for a male, assets will be divided equally between his mother, spouse and children. If he had intended any other distribution, it wouldn’t have been possible.

The procedure and contents

A will must be unambiguous and convey clearly how one intends to distribute his or her assets; it’s fine if it is in simple language. Priyamvada Birla’s will was less than two pages! No reason why our wills should be anything more. Every will requires two witnesses. The will can be registered, but it is not mandatory. A handwritten will is best as there is much less chance of its authenticity being questioned compared to one that is printed. It is also a good idea to get a doctor’s certificate on the date of writing the will, stating that the person is mentally fit and fine, so that this aspect is not questioned in future.
The will should be broad-based. Financial assets can keep changing over a person’s lifetime and so it may be better to mention the percentage of assets that would go to a beneficiary rather than specifically mentioning the folio number/certificate number of an investment.
Even in the case of properties, it may be a good idea to keep it broad-based, unless you are specific about the beneficiary. For other assets like collectibles, art, movable properties and so on, it is again a good idea to mention percentages rather than get down to enumerating them one by one.

Author : Suresh Sadagopan   |   Article published in BusinessLine on 3/5/2015

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