When I say, you must write a will, it might not sound good to you as with this you are planning for your own inevitable demise. But this is the most critical thing you can do for your loved ones. It will not only help your heir, it will also give you peace of mind that your assets will go in the right hands at the right time.
If you are keen to write a Will, you must know these eight factors before you start writing one.
1. What is a will?
It’s a legal document in which you define who shall get what after the demise, out of assets either built by you or inherited by you. The person who writes the will is called as ‘Testator’. The testator also appoints a person, the ‘Executor’, who manages estate after the demise of the testator and executes the stated wishes in the will. The best way to write a will is first to jot down all the assets including financial, fixed as well as movable. Then list down the beneficiaries to whom you want to allocate the assets. The beneficiaries might be anyone like servants or relatives or trust or any organization. You can identify the persons or organisations who should be receiving your assets after your demise. The assets can be allocated full or partial too.
2. What happens if someone dies without a will?
In such cases the legal heirs have to run pillar to post to claim their rightful assets. They need to prove in court that they are the rightful owners of the left behind assets of the deceased. Absence of ‘Will’ might also lead to unnecessary quarrels among legal heirs. In such cases the court might appoint an administrator who shall work in the capacity of the executor.
3. Do you need a lawyer to prepare the will?
You need not require a lawyer to prepare your will, though an experienced lawyer can provide useful advice on estate-planning. In India, if you write a will on a piece of paper and if it is signed by two witnesses then it’s a valid will. Now a days there are various Do-it-yourself platforms available where you can write your will with such online platforms.
4. What is Probate?
Probate is the judicial process whereby a will is proved in the court and accepted as the valid public document that is the last true testament of the deceased. This is a tedious process and generally takes 3 to 6 months. Generally a will needs to get probated before it gets executed.
5. Who should be a witness to a will?
Ensure that the witness is a trustworthy person and should not be a beneficiary to avoid the conflict of interest. There is no need to notarize a will in India and thus need not to notarize the signatures of the witnesses in the presence of a notary.
6. Who should be the executor?
Your spouse, the child who is not a minor or someone trusted like friend or relative can be appointed as executor. If you foresee complications in the matters then its better to appoint a lawyer as an executor. In the will the powers of the executor may be defined such as paying the bills or collecting the money from debtors etc.
7. How often one need to update a will?
I would first suggest to at least have a will. The will can be updated on major purchases which are long term and worthwhile to mention. If such assets are not mentioned in the will then these might be disputed items among legal heirs. At least review the will every two to three years.
8. Who can contest the will?
Generally beneficiaries who feel slighted by terms, contest the will. Such contest challenge the legal validity of all or part of the document. Further the will can be contested for any number of other reasons: it wasn't properly witnessed; you weren't competent when you signed it; or it's the result of coercion or fraud. It's usually up to a probate judge to settle the dispute.(The author is CEO & Co-Founder of FinPeace Technologies)