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Where there's a will, there's no trouble

A handwritten or registered will has greater locus standi than a typed one. However, get it checked by a lawyer to avoid any disputes

Yogini Joglekar 

Image via Shutterstock

A will looks like a simple piece of paper, but it changes the fortunes of many when enforced. While anyone above 21 years of age in India can make one, the question is how many of us actually do so.

It is a way of ensuring there are no disputes over distribution of assets and wealth after one passes on. Though, even after a will is executed, inheritors could have disputes over what they get. There is no surety that the people to whom wealth is to be bequeathed will not contest a will in the court. Ameet Hariani, managing partner at Hariani & Co, says: "There is a solution for such problems. The testator (person who makes the will) can add a clause that any inheritor who contests the will shall not be liable to get whatever he was supposed to inherit."

Such clauses can be added as required. Hence, experts say, it's best to take legal help even if you're making a will in your own handwriting. There should be no gaps in a will to leave room for any disputes. A look here at some ways of drafting a will.

Single Will: This will is drafted or made by an individual to bequeath assets owned by him to his family, relatives or friends. Planners say this is a sensitive topic and people are not yet comfortable talking about this. If your family structure is diverse and you want to leave your wealth to different members, you should have a will in place. Otherwise, on your death, the accumulated wealth automatically gets distributed in line with succession law - these differ by the faith you follow.

Joint Will: This one is prepared by persons who jointly hold properties and wealth. It is a single document, wherein two or more persons agree to bequeath property as a team. "In other words, this one document does the job of multiple wills. Hence, joint wills are complicated to draft and execute," says Richa Kapre, director, investments, at Altamount Capital.

Why? Drafting can be complicated, as it is not necessary that every living testator will agree to bequeath the property to a common person. Additionally, since this will has too many testators, there is a possibility that it can be changed or cancelled by any testator at any time during their life. The latest will made and signed by all testators will be valid.

Mirror Will: This type of will is only for couples who jointly hold assets. Couples who hold bank accounts, properties and investments jointly can get one drafted - exactly like each other but still made as two separate documents. These are individual wills but the content is similar, so you can expect some discount for the drafting by lawyers. In this case, the spouses bequeath property to each other after death. Mirror wills work in cases where identical assets are jointly owned or held.

Mutual Will: These are just like mirror wills. The only difference is that the assets to be bequeathed to the spouse are different, unlike in the case of a mirror will. Hence, if a couple owns some property jointly and the rest in individual names, this option can be exercised. This is for couples who majorly hold assets individually.

Oral Will: As the name suggests, it's orally done and is specifically applicable only to the armed forces in the battlefield. "If a soldier who is about to die says something to one of his fellow men just before he breathes his last words can be considered a valid will. However, the witness has to present himself in court as evidence," adds Hariani.

As a general rule, for any will to be valid, it needs to be signed by the testator in front of two people who will witness the event. In addition, register the will, so that it carries more weightage if contested. A will can be updated or changed as often as desired but only the one made on the latest date will be valid for execution.

There are many ways to make a will. For instance, portals can help you make an online will. Readymade draft templates and proformas can help you make a will, based on your need. However, you cannot escape the legwork of registering it.


* Make sure the will is signed by the testator & witnesses

* Lawyers will charge depending on the complexity of the will

* Typically, the cost of drafting is between Rs 2,000 and Rs 10,000

* A registered will has more locus standi

* Joint wills are easily revocable, due to more number of testators

* Make relevant changes in the mirror will on purchase/sale of an asset jointly held

* A mutual will is relevant if a couple has more of individually held assets

* Oral will is only for the armed forces

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First Published: Mon, September 02 2013. 00:09 IST