Make a Will today

“That is the reason we have deadlines, and deadline extensions. Unfortunately, we think, we have unlimited extensions to plan for the future and safeguard our families’ financial future.”

The following article by me appeared on the website of India Infoline on June 16, 2010.

Creating a Will is one of the most important actions that you can take to secure a comfortable future for your family. Death is inescapable. You should prepare for it! Human beings were born to procrastinate. That is the reason we have deadlines, and deadline extensions. Unfortunately, we think, we have unlimited extensions to plan for the future and safeguard our families’ financial future.

“A Will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his or her estate and provides for the transfer of his or her property at death,” according to Wikipedia. In simpler terms, by making a will you can determine what happens to your property and possessions after his death.

Before you dismiss a Will as tool only for the rich and famous, consider its implications on your financial plan. An advocate by profession and a close friend of mine Advocate Ashwin L. Advani explains, “The purpose of making a Will is to avoid conflict among the legal heirs of the person who is disposing off the property under the Will.” In absence of a Will, the court will to distribute your property according to law and determine the beneficiaries. Here few terms that will help you understand more about Wills:

> Testator: A person making a Will and executing it.
> Legatee /Beneficiary: A person who inherits the property under a Will.
> Probate: A copy of the Will certified under the seal of a court of a competent jurisdiction.
> Executor: The legal representative for all purposes of a deceased person (testator) and all the property of a testator vests in him.
> Codicil: An instrument made in relation to a Will, explaining, altering or adding to its dispositions and is deemed to be a part of the Will.

In India, the law with regard to execution, attestation, revocation and interpretation of Wills is governed by the provisions of the Indian succession Act, 1925 in case of Wills made by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains or Buddhists. Wills made by Muslims are governed largely by Muslim Personal law. The Indian Succession Act, 1925 defines a Will as the legal declaration of the intention of the testator, with respect to his property which he desires to be carried into effect after his death.

A will becomes enforceable only after the death of the testator. It gives absolutely no rights to the legatee until the death of the testator. It has no effect during the lifetime of the testator. The testator can change his will, at any time prior to his death, in any manner he deems fit. Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 provides that a Will is liable to be revoked or altered by the maker of it at any time when he is competent to dispose of his property by Will.

After a Will has been properly made in law, the testator may want to make some changes in the Will. He may cancel the entire Will and make a fresh Will incorporating the changes or he may alter only the relevant parts of the Will suitably by way of a Codicil. Such a Codicil forms part and parcel of the existing Will. It is a supplementary document to the Will and cannot be independent by itself. A Will can be registered with the registrar/sub-registrar with a nominal registration fee. The testator must be personally present at the registrar’s office along with witnesses. In India, it is not compulsory to register your Will and non-registration does not affect its validity.

“Although registration is not compulsory, it is very important to register your Will. In today’s world, where every single point needs to be proved before the court of law, it is very easy to challenge the authenticity and accuracy of your Will, after your death. Once a Will is duly registered, it is placed in the safe custody of the Registrar and therefore cannot be tampered with, destroyed, mutilated or stolen,” says Advocate Sana Khan, another friend of mine practicing in the Bombay High Court.

This handy checklist will help you plan ahead and reduce financial stress on family members, in the event of your death.

> Prepare a list of your property and its value
> Choose beneficiaries for your property
> Nominate a guardian for minor children
> Consider whether you wish to leave money to your favorite charity
> Carefully consider the appointment of your executor
> Seek a lawyer to make your Will
> Get your Will registered
> Put the Will in a safe place
> Review your Will periodically

When you don’t make your Will, there are often troubles faced by those left behind. The question of who gets what can lead to tangled legal disputes. By planning ahead you can create the provisions that are right for you and your family. So go ahead, make a Will today!