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When There Is A Will……..
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My great grandfather, on my mother’s side, was a local zamindar of sorts and he left a load of property to be distributed among his heirs. His will was not very detailed and just indicated a rough intention of how all his wealth and real estate holdings were to be disposed off after his death.
My grandfather died young, without leaving a will and now all that property – worth several hundreds of crores and consisting of prime property – are being battled over by his heirs and descendants, which include my mother and us. The case has been dragging on for more than two decades now and meanwhile many of the original claimants have already died.
All this is happening despite the existence of a will. Imagine what would have happened had there been no will at all.
Most people in India do not bother about writing a will or leave it until it is too late. This is a big mistake and creates a lot of headache later for the immediate family, who have to prove their right to that property. As soon as you have acquired a decent amount of wealth and have bought a house, it is time that you wrote a will.
A will is not the prerogative of the rich and the landed. Any ordinary person like you or I, can and should have a properly written will.
Alright, now let’s see what a will is and how you can write one.
What is a Will?
It is a declaration made by any individual expressing his or her intention as to how assets they own (financial or real) are to be disposed off – that is who will inherit it in the event of their death. The declaration made by the individual is legal and recognised by the courts.
How many times can I make a Will?
Well, you can make a Will as many times as you want according to how you change your mind. You can keep modifying your Will too. But remember, the latest Will (or the most recent) will be taken as the valid document.
Where is the proof that I have made the Will?
In order to prove that you are the author of the document, it has to be signed by two witnesses who will also vouch that you were of sound mind when you made the Will.
Why should I make a Will?
•If you have not made a Will there is every chance that your assets may not go to the people for whom it is intended.
•If you have left behind a lot of money, assets and property it could lead to fights among your heirs if you have not specified to whom and how it is to be distributed.
•A Will is especially important if you have children who are underage. You can make provisions for them in your Will and appoint a guardian of your choice. But if there is no Will, the court will appoint a guardian according to its discretion and that may be a person you may not like – though, of course, you will not be around to see that. The same thing applies if you want to Trustee to manage the assets on behalf of your children, until they come of age. With no Will to guide them, the courts will appoint someone and that person may or may not be trustworthy.
•With a Will you can appoint an Executor of your choice for your property and assets.
•In case the main inheritor of your wealth dies soon after you then you can specify alternate beneficiaries in your Will.
•In the absence of a Will, there may be other claimants to your wealth and property and your rightful heirs may be deprived of what they should have legally inherited.
In brief, with a Will you can ensure that your wealth, property and assets go to the right people who need it and your heirs do not have to contend with messy court battles in order to establish their rights.
There are some other points to note:
•The Will does not have to be made on Stamp paper.
•You may or may not register the Will.
•The Will does not have to be prepared by a lawyer.
You need to follow a few simple rules while making the Will
You can dispose off or bequeath
•All that you have acquired or created from your earnings.
•Real estate holdings which has been given to you without any future conditionalities attached.
•Whatever share you possess in any property elsewhere your share of every other property.
•If you are a Muslim you can give away only a third of your property.
Some guidelines for you to make a Will:
Keep it simple as possible
The order of preference generally followed in distributing property is
You may give something to charity too.
The Will is a confidential document and its contents need not be known to anyone – unless you have a lawyer to deal with your wealth. Even your witnesses need not read it.
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