Q 1. What Is a Will?

Will is a written declaration of a person in the presence of two witnesses about his wishes to distribute his/her properties, assets, and wealth to family, relatives, outsiders, or charities after their demise.

Q 2. What is the benefit of preparing a will?

By making a Will, a person can ensure that all his/her assets and properties are distributed and disposed of as per his/her wishes after his/her death without family disputes or without any legal hassles/delays.

Q 3. What will happen if I don’t make a will?

When a person dies without a Will (called “intestate” in legal language), all his properties, assets, and wealth are distributed as per Succession Laws applicable to him on the basis of his religion like Hindu Succession Act, Indian Succession Act etc. One should know that such succession laws have fix proportion to distribute properties to all/many family members which may not be as per the wishes of the deceased. In such situations, “Letter of Administration” or “Succession Certificate” from the court is to be obtained, else it could delay in distribution of properties, substantial legal expenses, and lead to family disputes.

Q4. Who can make a will?

Any person with a sound mind above the age of 18 can make a Will. They should be capable of understanding their actions and must be free from any improper influences.

Q5. Why should one make a Will at any age and not wait for old age?

Yes, one should make a Will at any age after the age of 18 since in today’s world of uncertainty, untimely death due to accidents, heart ailments, terror attacks is becoming a ‘way of life’. This is why many people take insurance at a young age of even 25. If one takes insurance at a young age to offer financial support to their family, why not make a Will which is an instruction in writing to family on how to distribute insurance claim or other properties/assets. Hence, everyone should make a Will at any age above 18.

Q 6. How to make a will?

Will can be handwritten or typed on a plain paper. There is no need for a stamp paper. Will should be in any language which is understandable to the person making it. It should cover the necessary details of your family, your properties/assets, your liabilities, your wishes, your bequeaths (property distribution wishes), names of two witnesses, date and place of signing, and the sign of the person making it as well as the witnesses.

Q7. When can I make ‘oral’ will?

No, this is called a Special Will (Privileged Will) which is allowed in the cases of soldiers, air force staff, or navy officers. In some cases, Muslims are also allowed to make oral wills are per their personal laws.

Q 8. Are the laws different for different religions?

Yes, different religions have different succession laws. Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains come under the category of Hindus. For Hindus, it is Hindu Succession Laws, for Parsi and Christians, it is Indian Succession act, and for Muslims, it is as per Sharia Laws. However, there are different rules for different types of Muslims, i.e. Shia, Sunni, and Khoja.

Q 9. What are the rules for Witnesses?

As per the law, a Will should be signed in the presence of minimum two Witnesses. It is not necessary for witnesses to read the content of the Will. They are just confirming that the will was signed in their presence. As per laws, witnesses can be called by courts in the event of any question of legality/authenticity of the will.Nowadays, it is also advisable to do a video recording of the will signature event and the clip can be kept in a safe manner along with the original will, so that it can be served as a legal evidence, if required.

Q 10. What is an Executor? Is it necessary to appoint an Executor for a will?

An executor is appointed by the person making a will. The executor is authorized to take action on all wishes as per the will. He can be a beneficiary in the will or any trusted person like a family friend or lawyer or CA who can assist the family to act as per the wishes in the will. It is not mandatory to appoint an executor. However, it is preferred.

Q 11. Is it mandatory to ‘Notarise’ or ‘Register” a will? What are the benefits?

No, Notarisation or Registration of a will is Not Mandatory. However, registration of a will is possible during the lifetime of a person making the will. You can also have the government as your third witness, for which you will have to register the will.

Q 12. What properties or assets can be mentioned in a will?

It is advisable to mention all single/joint properties, wealth, assets, receivables as well as all liabilities/loans in a will, including movable, immovable and intangible assets. Movable properties will include cash, jewels, FDS, Bank accounts, insurance policies, vehicles and all your furniture. Immovable properties will include your land, buildings, flat, shop, office, plot, garage, etc.

Q13. Can joint properties be included in a will?

Yes, a person owning any joint property is allowed to mention his wishes in his will for his part in the joint property. It is necessary to mention all joint properties to avoid unnecessary disputes.

Q 14. Can properties/assets where nominations are filed also be included?

Yes, legally, a nomination is just a facility to claim property by a nominee in the event of the death of the owner and the nominee will only act as a trustee for temporary period till a legal heir is established as per the will or as per the succession act. Thereafter, the nominee has to handover those properties to legal heirs. He can be a legal heir, too. However, there is an exception to this. Hence, one has to clarify all nominations in the will, if possible.

Q 15. Can rented properties/tenancy rights be included in a will?

No, tenancy rights are not a property or asset. Hence, they cannot be bequeathed in a will.

Q 16. Can leasehold rights be included in a will?

Yes, long-term leasehold rights, which are deemed-ownership, are allowed to be bequeathed in a will but short lease arrangements are not allowed to be bequeathed since they are not an ownership.

Q 17. Can an ancestral property be bequeathed in a will?

No, ancestral properties, which are co-owned by all family members, are not allowed to be bequeathed.

Q 18. Can business ownership in a firm, company be bequeathed in a will?

Yes, ownership as proprietor in a proprietorship firm OR share owned in a company can be bequeathed in a will. You are allowed to bequeath your share in a partnership firm.

Q 19. Can your share in HUF be bequeathed?

Yes, a co-partner’s share in a Hindu Undivided Family can be bequeathed.

Q 20. What other properties/assets can be bequeathed in a will?

One can bequeath pets, paintings, antiques, electronic items, furniture & fixtures, and intellectual properties like trademark, patents, copyrights, licenses, social media accounts, personal belongings, books, and digital assets.

Q 21. How to protect minor children?

One can nominate guardians for minor children who are beneficiaries in a will. They will be responsible to look after the children and protect their share. Many times, people create a trust for the betterment of legal heirs, friends, and relatives.

Q 22. What about assets which got missed in a will or future assets?

A general clause is included in a will for residual properties/assets (miscellaneous/assets which were not mentioned) that specifies whom to give ‘residual assets’ to. Similarly, a general clause is added for ‘all future assets’.

Q 23. Can a will be changed in future for addition/deletion etc. or can a new will be made?

A person can make a new will as many times as he wants or include changes in the form of codicil, which is a supplementary to the main will. However, it is necessary to mention in the will that ‘This is the last will and all past wills, if any, to be treated as cancelled’ since legally, only the last will is valid.

Q 24. Where can a will be stored/kept?

Legally, a will can be stored at any place. However, it is advisable to store your will at a safe and secure location, where it cannot be ruined and can be easily found by your family after your death. It may be kept in the safe custody of your locker or with a trusted person or a professional like banker or solicitor, who will take necessary steps to inform the executor after your death. Various banks and financial institutions offer custodian services for the safe keeping of your will.

Q 25. Can properties in foreign countries be bequeathed?

Yes. However, properties situated in foreign countries are governed by local laws in those countries & the procedure to enforce a will in such countries is different from India. Therefore, it is advisable to prepare two separate wills; one dealing with properties in India and the other with properties in foreign countries. Such wills are called concurrent wills and are treated as independent wills, unless interlinked.

Q 26. Can a husband & his wife prepare one single will as a joint will?

Yes, it is allowed. Both the spouses bequeath all properties to each other and finally, the properties mentioned are distributed to their family, relatives, etc. after their demise. However, a joint will can take effect only after the death of both the parties and not during the lifetime of either of them. In many cases, a couple prepares mirror wills, which are separate yet identicalwills, in which each spouse gives all his/her wealth to their partner.

Q 27. Who can be a beneficiary in a will?

“Beneficiary” is a person to whom the properties are distributed or “bequeathed” as per the will. Any person, body, trust, charitable institute, or society can be a beneficiary in a will.

Q 28. Who can be termed as my legal heirs?

Legal heir is a person; male or female, who is entitled to succeed to properties of the deceased as per the applicable succession laws. As per the Hindu Succession Act – if there is no will, properties are distributed to all class 1 heirs equally, if there is no one in class 1 heir, properties are distributed equally to class 2 heirs, and if there is no one in class 2, properties are given to agnates, and lastly to cognates. If no one is available – all properties are taken away by the government.

Q 29. When and how can a will be cancelled?

One can cancel/revoke their Will at any point of time or even by making a fresh will. Once a will is made, all the past/old will drafts get cancelled. A will can be revoked in the following ways:

  • By executing a subsequent will
  • By writing and declaring your intention to revoke the will
  • By burning, tearing or otherwise destroying the will

Q 30. Will I or my legal heirs be required to pay Income tax and other taxes with respect to properties under the will?

No.In India, any property received under thewill does not attract any taxes, including capital gain tax.

Q 31. What are special provisions in the case of Muslim wills?

Muslims are mainly governed by their personal laws with regards to will and inheritance and only a certain part of general succession law in India, known as Indian Succession, applies to them. As a general rule, Muslims can make a will for only 1/3rd of their properties and the remaining properties are distributed as per Sharia laws.

Q 32. What are special provisions in the case of wills by Christians, Parsis and Jews?

In the case ofChristians and Parsis, a will gets cancelled/revoked on marriage. A Parsi is entitled to give all his property to a charity.

Q 33. What is probate of a will? Is it mandatory for all wills?

Probate is a legal certificate issued by a court after a will’s validity is determined. An executor nominated as per thewill can apply for probate. When the court grants the probate or certifies the will, the executor gets entitled to take necessary steps to enforce the will.

Q 34. If there is no will, how to determine a legal heir?

In the event of ‘No-Will’ situation, if there are only movable properties, a succession certificate is to be obtained from the local court. If a person has left behind immovable properties,a‘Letter of Administration’ is to be obtained from the localcourt.

Q 35. What is the difference between beneficiary and nominee?

Nominee is merely a trustee of the property and he/she is required to hand it over to the legal heir and beneficiary is a person entitled to receive the properties as per the will.

Q 36. When are properties distributed as per the will?

The properties mentioned in a will are distributed as per the will only after the death of its maker.

Q 37. Do I really need a lawyer to make my will?

No, it is not. In today’s world, you can make a will yourself, and if you are stuck or confused somewhere in the middle while you are at it, you can contact online will writing service providers. One should be careful while drafting their will to avoid vagueness or contradiction and to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings or quarrels amongst family members.