Normally, we do not think about the succession planning. Talking about the death of elders are creates a negative impression in our society and generally results into bad perception about an individual. However, the difficulties in claiming the assets after the Death of an individual calls for some of the “Must Do Activities” towards succession planning. It could be as simple as knowing the place where your family member keep their papers or the exact financial situation like total value of assets or liabilities one possess.
One of the most important component which is required to be done is “Making a Will”. It eases the entire process of succession planning and highlights the entire list of assets and liabilities at one place. But when you talk about this with your parent, it is considered as the result of your greediness. One simple way to get this done, is to make a routine activity in the house to be completed every year by each member of the house above 21 years.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document written on a plain white paper (or a stamp paper) preferably in a person’s own handwriting. Normally, a will is created by an individual above an age of 21 years. This allows any person to divide his or her wealth among as per his or her wish. A person may decide to divide it equally or unequally among his family members or friends or any other person that he wish.
Importance of Will
Will clearly highlights the total wealth of any person and its division among the family and friends. Especially, in joint families where the families are closely knitted, a clearly defined will eradicates the chances of fight or disputes after the death of an individual. In the absence of will, the property and other part of will gets divided according to the ‘Hindu Succession Law’ for hindu families. The laws of inheritance are different among Hindus and Muslims in India and Government cannot give a common ruling to all. So, it becomes important to write a will which clearly defines the property divide and save the cost of lawyers, courts etc and not to forget the most important “your family bonding”.
How to make a Will
It is not very difficult to create a will. You need not be a ‘Rocket Scientist’ since there is no legal format or pre defined template. You may design your own will in just four parts.
Part 1– Start with Declaration: A Will should start with a declaration specifying your name, address, age, etc at the time of writing the will and declaring that you are writing this will in your full senses without any pressure.
Part 2– Provide list Details of property and assets: Then you start with the list of assets like house, other properties, fixed deposits, shares, bonds etc. It is better to prepare the list with some categorization like Properties, Cash and Bank Deposits, Jewellery, Shares etc. Normally, high value items are written on the top or or in the bottom. In front of every item, mention its current value and location or place where it is lying to avoid confusion and ease to locate the same in your absence. It is better to mention and define the process of release of these items if it under some lock in or safe deposit. Do not hesitate in mentioning even the small value items also.
Part 3 : Define the ownership division: Once you define the detail of your properties and other valuable assets, start with the division of the same. Clearly state the name, relation and proportion of asset for each item that you wish to give distribute among family member. In case, you are giving your property to a minor, then also define a trust worthy custodian for the same till he becomes major (above 18 years). it is important to distribute inherited properties as per applicable laws however other wealth or properties that are created with your ow efforts/earnings may be distributed the way you want.
You may also define certain scenarios where conditional division or distribution may take place due to life events. However, you need to be very careful while doing that to avoid any clash with above stated distribution or any other confusions. Generally, these confusions are the big reasons for clashes among the family members.
Part 4 : Sign the Will in front of 2 independent witnesses. Do sign on each and every page and specify the page numbers as “1 of 5″, 2 of 5” and so on. Witnesses should be independent and should not be the direct beneficiaries of the will. Do mention the date and place of the will at the end. Keep the will in sealed envelop containing your signature and date of sealing on the seal.
Execution of the will is done after the demise of the person by an Executor. Executor is the person who is responsible for dividing the wealth among the beneficiaries. Although not essential, the will may be executed in the presence of public notary or Magistrate, nominated by the government authorities and sealed in their presence.
Changing the Will
A will can be changed any time by the person when he is alive however should clearly mention that it supersedes all the earlier prepared will(s).
Making a Will through lawyer
People prepare their will though a Lawyer to avoid confusions and contradictions within the will. Also the purview of the will is defined as per the Indian laws which leads to avoidance of any legal disputes of family quarrels.
Other Important Points
- The Will should be prepared n a good quality of paper and signed with clearly visible ink.
- The two witnesses should be younger than you preferably a doctor, lawyer or a respected family friend.
- The witnesses should not be the beneficiary of the will.
- In case of Hindus, inherited properties should be clearly identified and thus ownership defined accordingly.
- Previous wills should either be destroyed or kept with newer will to avoid wrong execution. Better is to destroy after preparation of newer one.
- Avoid cutting while mentioning date, name, figures and other relevant details.
- The value of assets should be mentioned as to how much each beneficiary will receive, in percentage terms rather than absolute numbers.