Q. I am Anita Kapoor from Delhi. I have been running my own business for 10 years. I have two children, who have just started working. I want to prepare a will for them. Is this the right time? Should I wait until I retire? How do I go about making a will?
Anita, to answer your first question, the right time to prepare your will is NOW! After all, life is unpredictable! And the will would ensure that your wishes are met.
One must prepare a will while still in good health in body and mind. Waiting until you are ill, or retired or facing a critical situation may make you rush into the wrong decisions. Or the circumstances may even compromise the validity of the will.
As to how to prepare a will, we suggest the following steps.
List your assets
Before you begin writing the will, make a list of all your assets:
a) Physical—like real estate, vehicle
b) Financial—bank accounts, investments, PPF
c) Digital—contacts, social media accounts, credit card reward points
d) Intangible—relationships, goodwill, skills.
Decide how you want to distribute these assets among your beneficiaries. In case of Intangible assets, specifically mentioning who is eligible/ authorised to use your assets- Patent, trademark, contacts etc.
Draft the will
You can key in and print your will, type it, or even write it by hand. However, it is advisable to seek the help of a legal professional to ensure the will complies with all legal requirements. Please note that any form of digital will or e-will (recorded videos/ message) is considered invalid.
Appoint an executor
As the one who makes the will you are the testator and the person you legally empower to implement your will is the executor. Choose a trusted person to be the executor of your will. The executor holds assets after the testator’s death and implements the provisions of the will. Therefore, the responsibilities of an executor include fulfilling all obligations of outstanding debts (if any) of the deceased as mentioned in the Will and giving consent for transfer of assets to the beneficiaries or legatees under the will.
It's advisable that Will addresses the foreclosure of debts if any. In case no settlement of debts is mentioned, the beneficiary may be entitled to clear the debt from their own pockets if the creditors ask for the same. The executor is neither eligible to add any provision from his behalf other than the facts mentioned by the deceased nor can he be held responsible for paying off the debt otherwise mentioned.
The will must be attested by at least two witnesses who are not beneficiaries or their spouses. Witnesses should be present at the time of signing and should sign the will themselves.
Register the will
Registering the will provides safety and security in case the original will is lost or misplaced, as a certified copy is retained by the Registrar. To register the will, you and the witnesses need to be present at the Sub-Registrar's office and provide identification documents.
Keep the original will, signed, and witnessed, in a safe and secure place, such as a bank locker or a fireproof safe. Inform your executor and/or a close family member about the location of the will.
A residuary clause states that, unless specified otherwise, all assets go to a specific person. This ensures that all assets go to the desired legatee (beneficiary) you choose or their heirs.
Review and update your will periodically, if necessary.
a) Prepare a codicil If you are making an alteration in the will,
b) Overwrite the original and obtain new signatures of attesting witnesses.
c) Prepare and execute a new will altogether.
Inform relevant persons
Inform your family members and beneficiaries about the existence and location of the will and the assets it covers. This is not mandatory but can help avoid confusion and potential disputes.
Anita, remember that creating a will can be complex, and laws do change over time. Therefore, it is always a good idea to seek professional legal advice from an expert experienced in estate planning to ensure your will is valid and comprehensive.