A will, in simple words, is a document to ensure that your estate (assets without liabilities) is disposed off the way you desire.
In legal language, a will is defined as 'the legal declaration of the intention of the testator, with respect to his property, which he desires to be carried into effect after his death.' But such disposal comes into effect only after the death of the testator.
Making a will is one of the most important and integral part of personal financial planning.
Normally, all of us avoid making it. A will enables each one of us to distribute our property and assets in the manner we wish to distribute it. A will may also reduce the risks of undue litigation, delays, misunderstandings and disputes amongst family members.
A will can be hand-written, or typed, on a piece of paper. It requires no stamp duty or registration, although experts advise that a will must be registered so that it is in safe custody. The will must be attested by two witnesses, one preferably a doctor.
Consider some simple guidelines while creating a will:
- A will can be hand written in ink but preferably should be typed.
- It does not require any stamp paper & and it need not be registered.
- It should preferably be drafted by a lawyer, and checked by an accountant.
- It is advisable to name in your will, more than one executor/executrix to administer the estate and distribute the property, as per your desire.
- The will must be signed by you in the presence of at least two witnesses who must also sign the will at the same time. Their full names and addresses should be given. (Note: Witnesses need not know the contents of the will)
- The executor or beneficiary cannot attest the will as a witness.
- The executor of the will can also be named as a beneficiary and vice versa. Sign each page of the will, so that nobody can substitute a page later on, nor can anybody argue about fraudulent insertion of a page subsequently.
- Keep your will in a safe place e.g. in a bank locker. Inform the executor and beneficiaries where the Will is kept. Also give a signed copy to your lawyer.
- Review your will regularly, say once a year. It may need amending to take care of changes in your financial or family circumstances.
- On the demise of a spouse, the surviving spouse needs to revise his/her will.
Some legal terms:
Estate: The sum of all the assets of a person, less his liabilities becomes his estate. In short, all properties, bank accounts, investments, insurances and collectibles, less the liabilities of a person, are collectively called a person's estate.
Testator: A person who makes his will is a testator.
Executor: A person who executes the contents of the Will after the demise of the testator is called the executor. The executor is the legal representative for all purposes of the deceased person.
Legatee/ Beneficiary: Legatee is a person who inherits the estate. You should state how you wish your assets to be distributed. This includes naming one or more persons whom, you would like to receive all or part of your estate when you die, and who will benefit if your first choice beneficiary (or second or third) predeceases you.
Probate: Probate is the legal process of settling the estate of a deceased person, specifically resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under the valid will.