Original Publishing Date: July 9, 2021
Author: Kayezad E. Adajania, head of the personal finance bureau at Moneycontrol.
“Most of us have procrastinated making a Will all these years. But COVID-19 and its death trail have highlighted the importance of Will more than ever before, especially if there is more than one legal heir. Partition of assets when a deceased has not left a Will behind can be acrimonious.”
The author sympathises with the audience, taking into account that making a Will is hard for individuals given the emotional nature of writing one, but also recognizes that writing a Will is inevitable. With the circumstance of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals need to realise that writing a Will is important, because one never knows the predicament they may be in, or hardships they may face in the future, therefore, they must always be prepared with a Will to avoid quarrels between family members later on.
Adajania, the author, then goes on to provide numerous steps to write a carefully curated Will, thereby making it easy for the reader to understand the process of writing and organising a Will.
The first step in creating a Will is to identify the beneficiaries. Identifying a beneficiary implies that one needs to recognize to whom they would want to pass on their assets. If it is an individual, their full name needs to be written down; if it is a charity/an organisation, similarly, the full name of the beneficiary must be noted.
The next step is to make a detailed list of your possessions and assets that you would like to pass on. These assets include, but are not limited to, financial, tangible, movable and immovable assets. This step is important because it helps the individual creating the Will to understand exactly what is there to distribute, and ensure that everything is accounted for and precise.
The crucial step regarding the Will, is the distribution of one’s assets. The key to this step is to keep the language crisp, clear and simple. Everything should be stated clearly to avoid conflicts between the involved parties later on, and so that there is no room for interpretation or opinion. Another important step here is to be specific with numbers; one must not simply state that they want to give shares or mutual funds to their children, rather, they must specify the exact amount and/or percentage of the shares/mutual funds, and be as specific as possible to avoid conflict. The idea of being specific is not limited to shares, it can apply to various other assets too, such as real estate and other personal belongings.
Every Will needs an executor, someone who takes the responsibility of carrying out the Will’s instructions and ensuring that the assets are distributed as stated in the Will. Given this, the author has also mentioned that the executor should not be the nominee. Here, a conflict of interest arises, making it a problematic situation and an ethical dilemma if the executor is also the recipient of assets mentioned in the Will. While this is one perspective, the author also highlights the other side of the story, and how some people believe that one of the nominees should be the executor because the nominee has an incentive, meaning that the chances of executing the Will faster will be more likely. This topic remains a contentious debate for various individuals, thus, while writing a Will, an individual needs to consider who their executor will be.
Lastly, the author reinstates the importance of writing a Will, and how writing it should not be a ‘one-time’ thing. Various changes occur in one’s life and different predicaments may lead to changes in the Will, which can alter their priorities and/or assets. Thus, a Will needs to be constantly updated to keep up with the changes that take place over time. The author mentions that registering a Will is not compulsory, but if an individual has immovable/fixed assets in Chennai, Kolkata or Mumbai, then a Probate is needed. A registered Will simply reduces challenges faced by the executor, making the transmission processes smoother. Moreover, registering the Will makes it more legitimate, because it makes the registering officer a witness.