Estate Planning – Wills

blog, Estate Planning

I have received overwhelming response to my earlier two posts. It has encouraged to share my personal views again. In this post I will like to share details on the most commonly and important tool of Estate Planning i.e., “Will”. In my earlier post I had discussed about what is a “Will” today I will be discussing it from Indian Law point of view, especially from the point of view of “Hindu Succession Act”.

Who can be the beneficiary of a Will? Any person immediate or distant family members or friend or an organization (like a charitable trust or school) can be a beneficiary.

Who are the Legal Heirs? In India we have multiple personal laws so it is important to understand which succession law will be applicable to the “Testator” of the Will.

Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains follow Hindu Succession Act 1925 and amendment to Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005. And in this post will restrict views on the above.

Who are the Legal Heirs if a person dies Intestate Under Hindus Succession Act?The Class I heirs of a Hindu male are:

  • Widow
  • Son/ Daughter
  • Mother (0f a deceased person)
  • Son/ Daughter of a pre-deceased son
  • Son/ Daughter of a pre-deceased daughter
  • Widow of a pre-deceased son
  • Son/ daughter of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son (3 levels)
  • Widow of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son

The Widow, mother and each of the children (son or daughter) takes equal share. Where one or more of such sons or daughters is no more (have already passed away), then the Class 1 heirs in that branch will all jointly share that son/daughter(s) share in the estate.

Is it compulsory to a name an Executor to the Will? No it is not compulsory to name an Executor in the Will, but it is advisable to name an Executor in the Will. In case there is no Executor named in the Will then in that case beneficiaries have to approach the court for naming a executor and after that the execution of the Will can take place.

Is Registration of the Will Compulsory in India?It is not compulsory to register a Will as there is no Law which specifies registering as a requirement of a valid Will. The Indian courts have in the past given their Judgments upholding the unregistered Will as valid Will. In case one wants to register a Will one has to go to a sub-registrar office for registration of the Will.

How can one revoke or change one’s Will? During their lifetime as long as the “Testator” of the Will is of Sound mind and is competent to make a Will, the Testator can revoke his earlier Wills by writing a new Will and destroying the old original Will or by making a Codicil to the earlier Will.

Testator is free to change his/her Will as many times as they want. It is advisable not to change the Will too often or to have multiple Wills in place. It is important that in a new Will one mentions the revocation of all earlier Wills and also destroys original and copies of all earlier Wills to avoid confusion and dispute in the Future. In case there are multiple Wills and there is contest to the Will among the Legal heirs of the Testator then the Legal Heirs have to approach a competent court and the Court will decide on the facts of the case which is the Last Will.

One should update or change the Will whenever there are significant changes in their asset profile or their wishes in terms of the share of different beneficiaries under the Will.

What is a Probate? Is Probate compulsory in India? A Probate is an administrative order that is given by a competent court and it certifies that Will (including Codicils, if there are any) that is attached to the Will, has been proved in the relevant court. Further, the Probate gives the right to the Executor to transfer the assets to the respective beneficiaries as per the direction of the Will.

Is Probate Compulsory in India? Obtaining a Probate of the Will is compulsory only for people living in the High Court jurisdiction of Chennai, Mumbai or Kolkata Or if you have a immovable property in the above mentioned jurisdiction. For people in all other jurisdictions Probate is not compulsory. Probate may also be required if:

  • In case of dispute between the legal heirs OR
  • If a person dies intestate and he/she owns immovable property in his/her name either in single name or in joint name OR
  • For NRIs/ PIO/OCI if in their overseas Wills they have mentioned about Indian assets and they are required to obtain a Probate in their country of residence or citizenship OR
  • NRI/ PIO/OCI if they want to repatriate the money out of sale of assets in India OR
  • The Will belongs to Europeans, East Indians, Armenians, Jews, Indian Christians and Parsis

What is the cost of obtaining Probate in India? In India very state follows different rules and the cost is also different in different states. For example the cost of Probate varies from 2% to 4% of the assets in Delhi (depending on the value of the estate) to 8.75% in states like U.P.

Disclaimer : The views given are my personal views. Please consult your lawyer or Estate Planning expert before taking any decisions.