Will is an important tool for your estate distribution. It lays down your wishes of how and to whom your asset should be distributed when you are not there. It also gets combined with a trust to create a meaningful tax saving structure when you have large number of assets or a business to distribute or a special child as beneficiary. But while writing a Will care has to be taken on certain aspects to ensure you leave no probability of litigation among your loved ones. Even a small mistake can go against implementing your wishes and depriving your family the benefit they have a right to.
Here are few aspects in a Will which you should be taking into consideration before you write yours:
A Will should be written in a very simple language which should be understandable by a layman. In fact a language which you and your family members use for conversation. Care should be taken on not using technical words, grammatical sentences, errors and even the punctuation marks as they have capability of changing the meaning. Whenever a Will goes for any litigation, the court first find the definite intention of what you would have written. If the Will is not expressive enough, it can be held void for uncertainity. The decisions then can go against your wishes. You can even write a Will in your own handwriting but it may increase the probability of confusion if handwriting is illegible. So its wiser to type the Will neatly with correct margins either side. Also its advisable to sign at every page of the Will so that probability of making amendments in your absence is minimal.
- Asset Details
The details of assets should be mentioned very clearly. For immovable assets like real estate address of property, approximate value, your share in the described property, dimensions, floor if it’s a flat and any other details if given can ensure its clear identification. For example if you have a residential house or a vacant plot then you can mention in the Will in below manner –
Self-occupied house at house no. b-33, first floor, Area, city-Pin & state with 70% share
A vacant plot at S-94, Area , City-Pin & State with 100% ownership
Similarly for immovable assets the location of assets, value, ownership details will be beneficial. For e.g if there is a locker then its owners, locker number,bank branch details, and list of assets along with value should be given or if you have shares in a demat account then details of the company, account number and client Id can be given. In this manner your immovable asset description should be detailed enough in the Will so that there is no ambiguity on any of the assets you wish to distribute.
- Beneficiary Share Details
They are the most important as the your wealth will go to them. Hence its necessary that you mention the beneficiary details very clearly stating which assets will go to whom and the respective share. For e.g. if you have a two floor house from which you wish that ground floor to be given to your son and first floor to daughter then it can written in the Will in below manner
I bequeath the property bearing no. ………….. described as item no _____ in the schedule hereto to my son (Name as per the birth certificate or as per school certificate in absence of the birth certificate and address) absolutely to be held and enjoyed by him with full and full and absolute powers of disposal
Similalry if you wish to pass on some cash in your savings and PPF to your wife then you can mention in the Will in below manner-
“I bequeath all cash lying in savings account described as item No. 3 in the Schedule hereunder and balance in my PPF account as described as item no 4 to my wife (Name as per the birth certificate or as per school certificate in absence of the birth certificate and address) absolutely to be held and enjoyed by him/her with full and absolute powers of disposal“.
This will ensure there is a clarity in the Will that which assets you wish to leave for which beneficiary.
- Choice of Witnesses
They are the key as in case of probate they will identify that you wrote the Will and signed in their presence. You would not want a situation where if there is a need for them to be present than they are not alive or are untraceable. Select your witnesses thoughtfully. For good reasons they should be younger to you so that there is a higher probability of their survival beyond you. The other and the most important consideration in choosing a witness is that they should not be related to the beneficiaries. Although there is no bar, but a relative can be an interested party in your inheritance directly or indirectly or by virtue of relationship with beneficiary. This can make any bequest in their favor invalid. Contrary to this if you make your lawyer or a doctor, who are not related to any beneficiary but are your well wishers, as witnesses the probability of your wishes taking place is much higher.
- Choice of an Executor
For every Will there has to be a person who will execute it. He/she is going to be a custodian of all your assets till they are transferred to the respective beneficiaries as per you wishes. This is the most critical element because an executor has access to all your assets. As such, an executor should be a person who is well known to the beneficiaries under the Will and is their well-wisher. He should be honest, faithful and man of integrity. Even a beneficiary such as your children’s or any institution like a bank where you would have kept your Will can be appointed as an executor/s. There can be joint executors also if you wish to. But there can be instances when the executor you appoint is not living when the Will have to be executed. In such instances the court appoints an administrator. To avoid this situation it is a wiser approach to appoint a successor/alternative for the executor.
- Changes in Will
Generally, there will always be change in assets or liabilities as you move forward. In such instance you will need to makes changes in your Will (Codicil) so that these can be accommodated. But do remember that Codicil is a supplement to a Will and has to be mandatorily executed and attested just like a Will. If changes are more it’s wiser to redraft the Will with all these changes and ensure you destroy the old one.
Having a properly written will is essential for an effective estate plan. Good to take the below precautions while you are making yours-
- Prepare list of all your assets and property after taking into accounts all your debts, liabilities and expenses to get a clear picture of how you wish to distribute the estate.
- Make your intentions very clear in the Will
- Do not keep ambiguous any of the clause
- Avoid any of the ambiguous, contradictory and obscure words in the Will
- Avoid making errors
- Avoid irreconciliable clauses in the Will otherwise the last Will will prevail
- If you wish to disinherit any of the member state reason clearly why you want to do so
- Sign at every page of the Will
- Attach a doctor certificate for authenticity of your sound state of mind
- Let know the executor about your Will so that he/she is aware
- Redraft the will every 3-4 years so that you can accommodate any changes which has taken since then.
- Take the help of a professional to validate what you have written.
Have you considered writing a Will? If you have a Will is it elaborated enough?
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