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There are only two certain things in life – Death and Taxes. A lot of planning goes into taxes. Yet in India, apart from a life insurance policy, not enough thought goes into death.
There are only two certain things in life- Death and Taxes. A lot of planning goes into taxes. Yet in India, apart from a life insurance policy, not enough thought goes into death. The reason for this could be cultural. Indians are superstitious and believe that talking or planning about something means that it will happen. Well guess what. Even if you don’t discuss death, it will happen! I imagine this is what life insurance companies would have had to endure initially in India. It is however now an accepted principle that life insurance does not mean a speedier death. In all probability your karma will decide that.
One of the key aspects of planning for your death, euphemistically called Estate Planning, is making a Will. So if you have a life insurance policy but not a Will, then really you are relying on a third party to provide for your loved ones while not providing for painlessly passing on your own property to them.
In my talks with people about making a Will, a lot of them laugh it off for any number of reasons- I don’t have anything to give away; I’m still young; I have nominations; it’s too complicated to make a Will and I have to make a choice amongst loved ones etc.
Well, none of these are good reasons. Here’s why. Everyone has some wealth or property with emotional value. It’s never too early, unless you are Bhishma and can decide when you are going to die. Nominations, as we will see later, are not enough. And making a Will is not at all complicated.
In fact making a Will really is simple. It is the least legal of legal documents and if you follow a few simple rules, you can prepare it yourself and it can even be hand written. Contrary to what is the general belief, a Will does NOT have to be Registered, does NOT need to be on a Stamp Paper or even the green legal paper and does NOT need to be Notarized. And you don’t have to be rich or old to make a Will. Every adult should make a Will.
A nomination is not enough because a nominee, strictly speaking, is not a legal heir. A nominee is someone who takes care of your property after your death until it is transferred to the real legal heir. If you don’t have a Will, the legal heir could stake their claim from the nominee.
To put it simply, if you don’t have a Will
Let’s now look at the legal, practical and emotional aspects of making a Will.
To begin with don’t worry about complicated words and jargon.
Simply put, a Will is your direction that after your death, which of your property (ie Estate) should be distributed to whom (ie Legatee). Since you will not be around to ensure its distribution, you should mention who will do this (ie Executor). In order to prove that the Will is indeed prepared and signed by you, you need two people to witness this (ie Witnesses). And of course you have to be an adult to make a Will.
A Legatee (and an Executor, if you are a Christian or a Parsi) should not be made a Witness, else they will not be entitled to the property. An easy way to remember this is that if someone is asking you to be a Witness to a Will, you should first ask if you are getting anything under it. If you are, then don’t be a Witness!
Sign every page of the Will and the last page in the presence of two Witnesses.
You can withdraw or change your Will at any time. The latest Will is valid. You can add/sell properties that are mentioned in your Will.
What properties can you give
Here are a few good practices in making a Will (these are only my suggestions; you should consider your requirement and quality of your relationships).
Apart from making a Will, the other aspect of Estate Planning is organising your documents and information so that these can be found easily to make distribution of your properties smoother and bringing other things to a closure (life insurance etc).
Some people grapple with emotional aspects of who they should give the property to. Some of these issues and my general suggestions are given below
So here’s the bottom line. Secure the future of your loved ones and your legacy, as it’s never too early. Make a Will.
The writer is a CA and Founder at www.indianwillmaker.com
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