Have a Will to write your ‘Will’….


In this materialistic world, even relationships revolve around money. Even conflictsead to disastrous levels of annihilation and utter bitterness. We strive hard to build assets- financial and non-financial assets, may be in the form of land, building, gold ornaments, silver articles, Insurance policies, Shares, bank deposits, Company/post office deposits and so on. We do so to ensure security for our lives as long as we live and they would like to bequeath them to our kith and kin after our demise. The paradox or the irony of life is that one witnesses the fight amongst the successors for the assets soon after the demise of the person who left these assets- sometimes even before the rituals are over. People going to courts for getting their dues or more share of the bequeathed assets particularly by close siblings is not totally uncommon these days. Beware: Sometimes Money destroys relationships!
So as Investors we need to take some tangible steps proactively so as to ensure that the successors remain intact maintaining the good relationship even after our demise. The first thing one has to do is to inform our close relatives like the wife, son, daughter or anyone else and keep a record of all our assets and liabilities so that there is an awareness amongst them. After all, we spend our life earning and creating assets for their benefit only. It is indeed surprising and sometimes shocking to know that Billions of Rupees in Banks and Post offices remain unclaimed for years by the relatives of the deceased account-holders. Eventually, this huge money will be taken over by the Government as unclaimed deposits!

So when a person dies without leaving a ‘will’, then as per the Hindu Succession Act 1956 becomes applicable for the division or possession of the wealth of the deceased. Of course, it applies to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs. The Law may vary slightly for Christians and Muslims.

The first important thing one has to do is to always have a joint ownership of all assets. Secondly avail the Nomination facility like for bank deposits, Insurance policies, etc., without fail so that the transition of ownership becomes easy and less cumbersome. As per the provisions of law, the nominee does not wholly and fully becomes eligible to enjoy the ownership unless specified under a will or the only successor to inherit the assets. Otherwise, all legal heirs are entitled to raise their claims from the nominee with a death certificate and succession –legal heir –certificate.

So a ‘Will’ needs to be prepared carefully covering all the assets (liabilities too) indicating as to how the assets are to be divided amongst the legal heirs after the demise of the person. It has to be done meticulously so as to avoid any ambiguity but with clarity of the property, the shared quantum and the name of the person/s. Indian Succession Act and the capacity to dispose of is governed by personal laws. While Law permits oral ‘will’ in some cases, it is always better to reduce the intention of the person in a black and white document to avoid disputes later. Will can be written any number of times, modified and even cancelled by a person who does it. Two attesting witnesses are needed for a will. In case of a dispute on a will, the same has to undergo the due process of courts and once it is done it becomes a probate. If there is no will, a letter of succession is needed.

In case of self-acquired property, the person can make a will favouring anyone other than heirs. That is how you find many temples have so much properties donated by persons as charity. So to avoid conflicts later after demise it is recommended to draft a clear will and get it registered. If there is no will or is missing, then the wealth is divided as per the Hindu Succession Act 1956 or any other personal law based on religions. It is surprising to note that the laws are at variance for men and women.

In case of a death of a male, legal heirs are well defined in the Hindu Succession Act. All the relations are divided into Class I and Class II. The first right on the wealth is of Class I heirs. In the absence of Class I heirs, then Class II heirs get the right to claim. If both are not there, then there is in law known as Agnates and Cognates.

In case of death of a female, without a will, firstly upon the sons and daughters- including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter and the husband. Secondly upon the heirs of Husband, thirdly upon Mother and Father, fourthly upon the heirs of the Father and lastly upon the heirs of Mother.

So as to keep the Family members together even after the demise one should plan to divide them amongst them through a will- to be executed later. Better to discuss with all stakeholders and smoothly transit the assets later, with a will –would be a prudent initiative by an asset holder even when he/she is alive.

Wish you a happy and Value-investing!

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