A will is as simple as writing down what you want to do with your assets after death. However, for those who want to delve a little deeper, many legal terms are associated with it. Of course, one can always take a lawyer’s help to draft and register the will. This article can help you understand the terminologies mentioned in wills.
What should a will contain?
Just so your will is valid, it is better to ensure certain aspects, even in a handwritten will. Let’s see what they are.
Declaration: Anyone writing a will should be of sound mind and do it of their own free will without coercion. Hence, it is better to start with a declaration stating your name and that you are writing it with your full sound mind and consent. It is also better to mention the date and state this legal will, will be considered above any other for your asset settlement after your death.
Detail your assets: Make a detailed asset list and mention who should inherit each item. The asset list should include details of:
- Bank accounts
- Fixed deposits
- Investments in shares and mutual funds
- Gold and silver items
- Any other valuables
- Digital assets if you have.
Remember to mention your digital legacies like email accounts, subscriptions, royalties, cryptocurrencies, etc. Divide assets amongst the people whom you want to. If you are allocating anything to minors, please appoint a custodian to oversee them till they turn adults. It is best to nominate a known and trusted person as the will executor to ensure the proper execution of your will.
Signature with witnesses: Sign the will with the date in the presence of two witnesses, and they should also countersign it. Specify the full names of witnesses with their addresses to avoid any confusion. If the will has more than one page, please initial on every page to avoid conflicts about the page additions and removals.
Include own properties only: A will cannot allocate any items not created/ purchased and owned by you. For example, ancestral properties have specific rules to be followed.
You can make corrections to the will as desired later. However, every time you make corrections, ensure signatures and counter signatures with a date. Preferably, there should be at least two copies of the will, one to be stored with you and the other copy for safekeeping to avoid unwanted complications later. If you make significant changes to the will, a codicil becomes effective. It explains the changes to the will content so that everyone is aware.
The Post-Death Possibilities
The benefactors who are unsatisfied with their allocation can challenge the will in court. They may claim that you were not of sound mind when you made the will, that you did it under duress, or that it is not original, etc. Hence, ideally, it is best to make the will and keep the benefactors informed about the contents to avoid conflicts later. There are times when you may face the below scenarios:
- Disinheriting a legal heir
- Giving disproportionately to one beneficiary
- Allocating items to someone who is not a legal heir
It is better to mention the reasons to avoid any challenge later. If the will provides the required clarity and the people know the contents, then the post-death asset allocation will be smooth.
Here are some terminologies that can throw light on the will creation and post-death allocation process.
Intestate: This happens when a person dies without leaving a will, and the laws, as applicable based on the religion, come into effect. Please note that this differs for the various religions such as Hindu male, Hindu female, Christians, Parsis, Muslims, and so on. For more clarity, it is best to consult a lawyer to understand what is applicable in your case.
Probate: This refers to the legal document your will executor will have to obtain to ensure your will gets executed as per its contents.
Testator/Executor: The person responsible for overseeing the execution of the will.
Beneficiary: People named in the will to receive any assets are called beneficiaries. People who are not related to you can also be beneficiaries.
Ideally, making a will is not a cumbersome activity, if you just apply some thought using the tips mentioned above to ensure that it is valid.