Ask any financial advisor about the best time to write a Will and you get an instant reply: the moment you feel the need for one.
Gaurav Mashruwala, a certified financial planner, says that the moment you open your first bank account, you have to start preparing your will. But the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed nearly 75000 lives worldwide so far, has nudged many to think about making a will. It good to prepare a will even in the best of times, not to mention the suitability of doing so during such turbulent periods.
“These kind of situations create insecurity and uncertainty amongst people. We have seen a significant increase in individuals reaching out to us for estate planning and preparing Wills, both offline and online. Most clients are opting for video calls,” says Sandeep Nerlekar, founder and managing director of Terentia Consultants. “Inquiries have gone up substantially from India as well as from NRIs worldwide,” he adds.
In this two-part series, Moneycontrol revisits the important task of making a will during this lockdown.
Preparing a will in a lockdown
Writing a Will is not a quick-fix. A Will is a document that records the beneficiaries/recipients of a person’s assets after he/she dies. This necessitates the writer of the Will (technically termed as Testator) to make a list of his/her assets and liabilities. This may not be an easy task for many. You can pull out your portfolio statements online and find details of outstanding loans.
One way of preparing a will is to know what your family members’ financial goals are, especially if you are the head of the family or bear the responsibility of taking care of them. “If you come to know about the life goals of your kids, then you can make provision for the same in your Will,” says Neha Pathak, head-estate and trust planning, Motilal Oswal Private Wealth Management.
Doing this during a lockdown can be tricky if your family members live in different locations. A video call can take things forward, in these times.
A good practice is to know the preferences of individual family members. For example, you may be thinking of bequeathing your gold jewelry equally to both your daughters-in-law. But if you find that one of them is not keen on jewelry and instead prefers financial investments, then a suitable change can be made in your estate plan. You need not tell your family members about your plans of preparing a Will. But it’s always better to keep a trusted family member, especially your spouse, or even your financial advisor, informed about the will and even give a sealed copy of your will to the person once you are done making it.
The best time to bequeath assets
“If you have acquired assets in your name, then you must have a Will to ensure that your possessions go to the right hands in case of an eventuality,” says Pathak. But seldom do people think about it and write one. Many feel it’s morbid and a taboo to discuss death. Many others ignore writing a will citing lack of time. The biggest myth that dissuades many to write a will is that either they are not yet old enough or they are not rich enough to write a Will.
The lack of a Will can make accessing of the deceased’s assets by the legal heirs a cumbersome task, with too much paperwork and running around to do. For example, let’s say a Hindu male dies without a Will, leaving behind a house property in Mumbai and two legal heirs (two sons) residing overseas. In that case, at least one of them has to come to Mumbai and file an application in the court of law for the possession of the property. The Court, after following the due process, will issue a certificate of heir-ship or letter of administration. This will facilitate the transfer of title to all concerned.