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Planning to write an online will? Key points to note

Any accidental or inadvertent errors made while drafting the will may go unnoticed as no lawyer reviews the draft on preparation

July 03, 2018 / 12:42 PM IST

There exist a lot of misconceptions and apprehensions about drafting a will as people often associate it with death and unfortunate circumstances. Anjali Malhotra, Chief Customer, Marketing and Digital Officer, Aviva Life Insurance said, “Many people are putting off writing a will because they find it a costly and tedious affair.”

But given that technology is leaving virtually no area of service untouched, Natasha Bardia, Assistant Manager, Warmond, said, “Will writing services are no exception with a number of portals today offering this service online. We are in the age where wills can be drafted on a website as well as on a mobile application.”

Who should opt for online will services?Whether the will is prepared using online services or one engages the services of a lawyer for getting the same drafted depends on one’s financial and personal circumstances. Gautami Gavankar, Executive Director - Trusteeship Services, Kotak Mahindra Trusteeship Services, said, “If an individual is tech savvy, then he may prefer to opt for an online will writing service. Online wills can be completed sitting at home without meeting a lawyer and in a cost-effective manner.”

Will table

Any Indian (except Muslims) can write an online will. Jatin Popat, Director, WillJini Succession Services, explained that Muslims need to avail customised services since the will drafter requires a detailed study of Sharia law.

When you should write a will?The right time to prepare a will varies from individual to individual, the current situation in the family and also desire to lay a roadmap for his dependents as regards assets. Bardia said, “We are seeing millennials and senior citizens writing their wills. Sometimes, even changing family dynamics may be a motivation for a person to write his will. Now, there is no set age or life event which is the right time to write one’s will.”

Execution is a must after drafting an online will“There are people who are under the impression that an online will can be execution completely on the internet. This is not true. Under the Indian Succession Act, 1925, the testator must sign the will and two or more witnesses, each of whom has seen the testator sign the will, must also attest the same. This requirement under the statute cannot be met online,” Bardia added. Once the draft is finalised online, the testator must carry out the execution so that the will is compliant with the law.

Review online will at regular intervals
After creating an online will, Malhotra said customers must revisit the platform every 3-5 years to update the same and make necessary amendments if required.

Pros and drawbacks of an online will service
Some of the pros and drawbacks of using online will services explained by Gavankar are as follows:

- Simplicity and convenience: An online preparation service can be used to create a basic will by those having no familiarity with the law, by merely requiring the client to answer expertly drafted questions.
- Low and fixed costs: Unlike many lawyers who charge by the hour, an online will preparation services usually charges a fixed fee depending on the kind of services opted for by the client.
- Speed: An online will preparation services adheres to strict delivery timelines.- Accountability: It acts as an independent party which will fill in the details exactly as instructed, eliminating any chances of fraud or misconduct.

- No human interaction:
Online will preparation services may not involve an interaction or discussion with lawyers. Hence, one will have to rely on the output which comes on the basis of the information filled in by the client.
- Limited customisation: The client may not be given the flexibility to include many personal or complex wishes or procedures into the will because of fairly standard formats
- Errors and exclusions not caught: Any accidental or inadvertent errors made while drafting the will may go unnoticed as no lawyer reviews the draft on preparation- Not all can avail an online will service: Popat said, "Certain special case individuals (like ultra-high networth individuals, Muslims, divorcees) may not be able to avail the service which require customised will drafting."

Online will versus lawyers preparing a willOnline wills are suitable for a person with a simple family structure, straight forward succession and wealth distribution goals. Online wills have pre-determined templates and standard agreements.

Nishant Agarwal, Managing Partner & Head - Family Office, ASK Wealth Advisors, said, “They are good for a portfolio comprising of financial and real estate holdings. It’s easy to execute, cost effective and offers options to specify beneficiaries and executors. However, if the estate consists of more complex assets like transfer of shareholding of family businesses, operational and voting rights or the need to have multiple beneficiaries for different assets, then an offline customised mode of drawing up a will in consultation with one’s lawyer is the ideal approach.”

Hiral Thanawala
first published: Jul 3, 2018 12:31 pm