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The significance of making a Will cannot be underestimated. It is a central part of your financial planning. A properly drafted legally valid Will is the only way to make sure that your property, savings and possessions go to the people and causes you care about.

It is not enough to simply tell people your personal wishes. If you die intestate i.e. without making a Will, the law has the last and final say in allocation of your assets.

Wills apply to self-acquired assets and property. Joint Family and Hindu Undivided Family property cannot be willed.

Factsheet

  • 80% Indians die without making a Will
  • According to the Law anyone over 18 years can write their Will
  • Experts recommend that you MUST write a Will if you own assets or whenever you start earning

A will can be made by anyone above 21 years of age in India. You can make the will on plain paper and it’s not legally necessary to make the will on stamp paper. It is advisable to write your will in your own hand writing, as the same can be verified later in case of any doubts raised by relatives. You can always update or change your Will later. It might happen that according to your family structure and your preferences, you want to divide your wealth unequally or make a provision for a close friend or a faithful servant.

How do you make a Will in India?

There are several parts to a Will, which duly completed, make up a complete Will. Though there is no lawful or definite format, there is an outline, which is generally used.

  • Declaration in the beginning: In the first paragraph, you have to declare that you are making this will in your full senses and free from any kind of pressure. You have to mention your name, address, age, etc at the time of writing the will so that it confirms that you really are, in your senses.
  • Details of Property and Documents: The next step is to provide list of items and their current values, like house, land, bank fixed deposits, postal investments, mutual funds, share certificates owned by you. You must also indicate where all these documents are stored by you. In all probability, these are in your bank safe deposit box. Even the will should be stored in there! Make sure, you take the details from the bank manager, about the procedure and rules of releasing your will from the safe deposit after your death. Make sure you communicate it to the executor of the Will or your family members. I am sure, they’ll be pretty interested in this.
  • Details of ownership: At the end of the will, you should mention who should own your assets items and in what proportion, after you have gone.  If you are giving your assets to a minor, make sure you appoint a custodian of your assets till the individual you have selected, reaches an adult age. This custodian obviously, has to be a trustworthy person.
  • Signing the Will: At the end, once you complete writing your will, you must sign the will very carefully in presence of at least two independent witnesses, who have to sign after your signature, certifying that you have signed the will in their presence. The date and place, also must be indicated clearly at the bottom of the will. Make sure you and the witnesses sign all the pages of the will. One important point while choosing witness, is that they should be your friends, neighbors, or your colleagues and not the direct beneficiaries in the Will. They only certify, that you yourself have signed the will in their presence and are not a party in making the will in India. The envelope has to be sealed after completing all the formalities and the seal must bear your signature and the date of sealing. The witnesses need not sign on the seal of the envelope.

When you are dead, there is someone called an ‘Executor’ who will be responsible for dividing your wealth amongst the beneficiaries and he will make sure the whole process is smooth. It is not legally required to get the will executed in a court of law in presence of a judicial Magistrate in India. However, if you wish, the will can be executed in the presence of Magistrate or the public notary, nominated by the government authorities and sealed in their presence.

Important points while making a Will

If possible, have the two witnesses be a doctor and a lawyer. A doctor signing a will, won’t raise any question of you, being of unsound mind. The lawyer, will vet the will and make sure you don’t make stupid mistakes at the time of writing and signing it.

The attesting witness and his or her spouse should not be a beneficiary under the terms of your Will. This might create vested interests and sometimes make your will invalid. Also, make sure the witnesses are younger than you and not very old as your will might be in effect for several years!

Write your will on good quality thick white paper so it doesn’t get spoiled over a period of time. It should be stored in a plastic envelope in full size, without folds.

Note that you should keep just one more copy of will and stored separately from the original will. The will must be stored very safely in your bank, in safe deposit box. You must also inform your next of kin, as to where you have stored your will. Do not make many copies of your will.

In case of Hindus, it should be clearly stated if the property is inherited or not, because it makes a huge difference, as no ancestral property can be assigned to any person through a will. All rights on inherited property are acquired by birth.

A will must always be dated and if more than one will is made, the one with the latest date will nullify all the previous ones. In fact, there should be a statement in your will, nullifying all other previous wills. The pages should be numbered to avoid fraud.

The value of assets often fluctuates, so it is better to mention how much each beneficiary will receive, in percentage terms rather than absolute numbers. Unless it is pure cash.

Image courtesy: https://www.everplans.com/articles/how-and-why-to-help-clients-create-a-will

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