Not many people like to talk - or even think - about their own demise, which, essentially, is what making a Will is all about. Writing a will is a hard task to approach on many different levels - from dealing with one’s own mortality to deciding which of your offspring, relatives or friends should get your belongings, assets and property. But while writing a Will may come with a great deal of emotional complexity, it is actually quite a simple process. If you have a reasonable amount of assets and several heirs, it’s advisable to have this legal declaration to avoid problems over succession.
What Happens if I Don't Write a Will?
If you don’t have a Will at the time of your death, the property you own Will be given out according to Succession Act provisions. In India various communities have their own succession Act that governs them. For example, according to the Hindu law, if a Hindu man dies without a Will, the inheritance Will be shared by his Class 1 heirs which includes his mother, wife and children. For a Muslim man who dies without Will. The wife takes 1/4th of the share where she is without children and 1/8th of the share if she has children. Likewise the law varies for different Communities.
Can I Change My Will after it Is Written?
Yes, you can change or alter your Will at any point during your lifetime. This is done by
1. By execution of a new Will.
2. By revocation of the earlier Will,
3. By registration of new Will,
4. By destruction of old Will or
5. By the inclusion of a Codicil which is a document explaining, altering or adding to the Will and it is deemed to be a part of the Will. Although registering a Will is not compulsory by law, however it is recommended to get the Will registered.
Steps for Writing a Will
There are several steps to writing a Will. Luckily, they’re all very straightforward. And you only need to work through them once—when you do, you’ll have a Will you can tweak whenever your circumstances change. We have noted down some basic steps for preparing your Will, please contact your legal advisor to know more on same.
a) Should I have the mental capacity to make the Will
You will have declare in the beginning that you are in your proper statement of mind while writing the Will. You also need to add that you are not under the influence or facing pressure from anyone as you write the Will.
b) Knowledge of the Content in the Will
While writing a Will, you should have knowledge of all the bequeathed, money, or material mentioned in the Will. List individual items if you have specific plans for them. Check the approximate value of properties that you own. Make a note of financial assets like fixed deposits, life insurance, mutual funds, postal investments and shares.
c) Decide Who Should Receive Specific Assets
If you want to keep heirlooms in the family, give someone a financial boost or have a book collection you know someone would enjoy, you can choose specific beneficiaries for specific items, amounts of money or property. You can even give Will away assets to a trust or charity or form a trust of two or more people. Trustees Will have to be over 21 years of age. In case you are giving away assets to a minor then details of his/her guardian needs to be captured. Also, the minor Will only be granted access on reaching adulthood.
d) Decide on Alternative Beneficiaries for Those Who Die First
This basically means saying who would be your second choice to receive certain things if the intended beneficiary were to die before you do. This is important in case you forget or don’t get around to changing your Will before you die.
e) Decide Who Should Look After Your Children
If you have any children under the age of 18, choose a legal guardian should you die before they reach adulthood.
f) Choose an Executor
Many Indians prefer to choose a family member or a friend as the person responsible for ensuring your instructions are honored. However one has an option to also appoint a corporate executorship who Will be able to professionally handle the process as per the Will. The option to choose among these are left with the person who is making his Will. Sign Your Will in the Presence of Witnesses
Once you have written up the distribution of your assets in your Will, you will have to sign your Will in the presence of two witnesses (people who are not mentioned in the Will). They too will need to sign the Will as proof that they were present during the time of your signature.
g) Store Your Will Securely
If your Will can’t be found when you die, then it can’t be executed. So, store it securely—perhaps in a safe, a bank deposit box or with your lawyer—and be sure your executor knows where to find it.
Attest Your Signature/Thumb Impression on Every Page of the Will
Each page will need to be signed by you as well as your two witnesses. Put the date and place at the end of the Will as well. If you’ve made any cancellations or corrections to the document, be sure you and your witnesses countersign it.
i) Write or Type Your Will
Will can be typed or hand written both. Only thing that needs to be noted is that the same shall be legible. So just make sure it’s legible!
Writing a Will - Do You Need Professional Help
When writing a Will, you’ve got three main options:
Write the Will Yourself
It’s a free option and works if you are dealing with a relatively simple estate (say, you have one child who you plan to leave your wealth to). If you choose this option, it’ll be entirely up to you to make sure that your Will is legally binding, so be sure to do your research and take your time to get it right1.
Work with an Lawyer
It’ll cost you but it’ll also save you a lot of worry and time. Choose this if you have a particularly complicated estate that needs an equally complicated Will. This especially applies to those who have property across countries, business assets and/or many children and children from different marriages1.
Use Online Will-Writing Services
It requires a little more effort than getting it done by a professional but it’s great for relatively simple estates. And it’ll save you money while ensuring that your Will is written according to the necessary legal requirements1.
If you’ve got this far, you’ll have officially written a Will! Now you can be at peace with the knowledge that you’re hard earned assets will go to those who you believe deserve them. As with good financial investments, life insurance and sound planning for the future, making a Will is just another step in ensuring your loved ones are well taken care of beyond the span of your lifetime.