First, we should know about the importance of a Will.
I had shared few thoughts on Estate Planning in my last blog. In today’s blog, I will be sharing my thoughts on why majority of the people in India avoid talking about Will and its importance. My thoughts on why people avoid writing a Will is based on my own interactions with people as an Estate Planner and my professional experience over the last 6 years as one as well.
Why majority of the people in India do not have a Will?
While majority of the people we talk to acknowledge the importance of having a Will, still an overwhelming percentage of Indians do not own a Will. The major reasons of why people procrastinate writing their Will are:
- They think they are too young to need one
- They have not decided who in their family should get what share and asset
- They have misconceptions like-
- I have nominees in my bank account(s) then why would I need a Will
- I have all my accounts in the form of joint account with ‘either or’ survivor clause so my spouse will inherit all my accounts automatically
- I have very little wealth, Will is only for the super-rich
- If my circumstances change tomorrow and I have named beneficiaries then it will not be possible to change them or it will become a very cumbersome process
- I have instilled a lot of values in my children, there will be no dispute in my family and they will continue to own all the assets jointly.
- My wife will automatically inherit all my assets, why do I need to write a Will
- If i write a Will it will create unnecessary fissures in my family if my children come to know who will inherit what
- It is still taboo in India to talk about death amongst family members
- It is not socially acceptable in India that children talk about inheritance with their parents
- People avoid talking to their spouse about Will as they are not sure either about the reaction from the spouse
- They do not know anyone who could help them write a Will and neither to do have a lawyer
- They do not want to disclose their assets to any outsiders
If the person does not have a Will at the time of his/her death, then he/she is considered to have died Intestate. In case of Intestate death his/her assets will be distributed as per the applicable Succession Act. In India there are multiple Succession Acts like Hindu Succession Act, Indian succession Act, Sharia Law, Forced Heir-ship rules as per Goan Civil Code (applicable to people living in Goa or married in Goa) etc. Then there are regional peculiarities for inheriting real estate for People belonging to Jammu &Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, etc.
Therefore, if one wants to distribute the assets as per his/her wish or wants to prevent future conflict within family members on inheritance it is important to write one’s Will. In addition, if one wants to avoid the complication of minor children inheriting the wealth, especially real estate, then it is important to write a Will. Will helps one in a smooth transfer of inheritance and prevents their family from undergoing avoidable hardships and hassles in inheriting the assets.
Who can write a Will?
Any person of the age of majority who is of sound mind can write a Will. Further, a Will should not be written under any coercion or threat.
In India, a Will can be written on any piece of paper and can be written (drafted) by anyone even if one is not a lawyer. In Many countries like UK, USA, and Singapore, anyone drafting a Will has to have a license from a competent authority and must undergo certification before one can become eligible to draft a Will.
What are the essential components of a Will?
- Name of the “Testator” of the Will
- Date and place where the Will is being written
- Two witnesses
- Testator & witnesses’ signature on the Will
- Details of the assets which the “Testator” wants to transmit to his/her legal heirs
- Name of the beneficiaries
- Details pertaining to share of all the beneficiaries
- Name of a person(s) who will be the executor of the Will