Wills / Trusts

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Will Drafting Guide Legal Tips and Advice Legalkart
Wills / Trusts

Will Drafting Guide Legal Tips and Advice Legalkart

Drafting a will is a crucial step in ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. Despite its significance, many people delay or neglect creating a will due to misconceptions or discomfort surrounding the topic. However, with the right guidance, drafting a will can be a straightforward process that offers peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

Section 1: Why You Need a Will

A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets and possessions to be distributed after your death. Without a will, your estate will be subject to intestacy laws, which may distribute your assets in a manner that does not align with your wishes. Here are some key reasons why having a will is essential:

  1. Control Over Your Assets: A will allows you to specify who will inherit your property, belongings, and investments.

  2. Guardianship for Minors: If you have minor children, a will enables you to designate a guardian to care for them in the event of your death.

  3. Minimize Family Disputes: Clear instructions in your will can help prevent conflicts among family members regarding asset distribution.

  4. Tax Planning: A well-drafted will can minimize the tax burden on your estate, potentially saving your beneficiaries money.

Section 2: When to Draft Your Will

While it's never too early to create a will, certain life events should prompt you to review and update your existing will or create a new one. Here are some milestones that may signify it's time to draft or revise your will:

  1. Marriage or Partnership: Getting married or entering a civil partnership often prompts individuals to update their wills to include their new spouse or partner.

  2. Parenthood: The birth or adoption of a child may necessitate revisions to your will to designate guardianship and provide for your child's financial future.

  3. Acquiring Assets: Significant changes in your financial situation, such as purchasing property or inheriting a large sum of money, warrant updates to your will to reflect these assets.

  4. Divorce or Separation: It's crucial to review and update your will following a divorce or separation to remove your former spouse or partner as a beneficiary.

  5. Changes in Health: If you experience a decline in health or are diagnosed with a serious illness, it's essential to ensure your will reflects your current wishes regarding medical care and asset distribution.

Section 3: Steps to Drafting Your Will

Drafting a will doesn't have to be a daunting task. By following these steps and seeking professional guidance if necessary, you can create a comprehensive will that accurately reflects your wishes:

  1. Inventory Your Assets: Begin by making a list of all your assets, including property, bank accounts, investments, and personal belongings.

  2. Choose an Executor: Select a trustworthy individual to serve as the executor of your will. This person will be responsible for administering your estate and ensuring your wishes are carried out.

  3. Identify Beneficiaries: Determine who will inherit your assets and possessions. Be specific in your instructions to avoid ambiguity or disputes.

  4. Consider Guardianship: If you have minor children, decide who will assume guardianship responsibilities in the event of your death.

  5. Consult Legal Professionals: While it's possible to create a basic will using online templates, seeking advice from an estate planning attorney can help ensure your will complies with state laws and accurately reflects your intentions.

  6. Draft Your Will: With the assistance of legal professionals, draft your will, including all necessary provisions, such as asset distribution, guardianship arrangements, and funeral wishes.

  7. Review and Update Regularly: Life circumstances can change, so it's essential to review and update your will periodically to ensure it remains current and reflects your current wishes.

Section 4: Common Mistakes to Avoid

When drafting a will, it's crucial to avoid common pitfalls that could lead to complications or disputes after your passing. Here are some mistakes to steer clear of:

  1. Procrastination: Delaying the creation of your will can leave your assets vulnerable and may result in unintended distribution.

  2. Incomplete Information: Failing to include all relevant assets, beneficiaries, and instructions in your will can lead to confusion and disputes among your loved ones.

  3. DIY Errors: While DIY will kits may seem convenient, they often lack the legal expertise necessary to address complex estate planning issues adequately.

  4. Failure to Update: Neglecting to update your will following major life events, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child, can render it outdated and ineffective.

  5. Lack of Witnesses: Most jurisdictions require wills to be witnessed by impartial individuals to be considered legally valid. Failing to adhere to these requirements could invalidate your will.

Conclusion

Creating a will is a vital aspect of estate planning that ensures your wishes are respected and your loved ones are provided for after your passing. By understanding the importance of a will, knowing when to draft or revise it, and following the necessary steps, you can create a comprehensive document that offers peace of mind for you and your family. Remember to seek professional guidance and regularly review your will to ensure it remains accurate and up-to-date. With careful planning, you can secure your legacy and protect your loved ones for generations to come.

FAQS

1. Why do I need a will?

A will is essential for ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. Without a will, your estate may be subject to intestacy laws, which could result in assets being distributed in a way that does not align with your intentions.

2. When should I draft my will?

While it's never too early to create a will, significant life events such as marriage, parenthood, or acquiring assets should prompt you to review or create a new will. It's essential to keep your will up-to-date to reflect any changes in your circumstances or wishes.

3. Can I draft my will myself, or should I seek professional help?

While it's possible to draft a basic will using online templates or DIY kits, seeking advice from an estate planning attorney is recommended, especially for more complex estates. Legal professionals can ensure your will complies with state laws and accurately reflects your intentions.

4. What happens if I don't have a will?

Without a will, your estate will be subject to intestacy laws, which vary by jurisdiction. In general, intestacy laws prioritize spouses, children, and other close relatives as beneficiaries. However, this may not align with your wishes, and it could lead to disputes among family members.

5. How often should I update my will?

It's advisable to review and update your will periodically, especially after major life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or significant changes in your financial situation. Regularly reviewing your will ensures that it remains accurate and reflective of your current wishes.

6. Can I include funeral wishes in my will?

Yes, you can include funeral or burial wishes in your will. However, it's essential to communicate these wishes to your loved ones and designate someone to ensure they are carried out, as wills are typically not read until after the funeral.

7. What is an executor, and how do I choose one?

An executor is a person appointed to administer your estate and ensure your wishes are carried out after your passing. When choosing an executor, it's crucial to select someone trustworthy and responsible who is willing to take on the role. You should discuss this decision with the individual beforehand to ensure they are willing to serve as your executor.

8. Can I change my will after it's been drafted?

Yes, you can revise or update your will at any time during your lifetime. Changes to your will can be made through a codicil (an amendment) or by creating a new will altogether. It's important to follow the necessary legal procedures to ensure the validity of any changes.

9. Do I need witnesses to sign my will?

Most jurisdictions require wills to be witnessed by impartial individuals to be considered legally valid. The number of witnesses required and other specific requirements may vary by jurisdiction. It's essential to adhere to these legal formalities to prevent challenges to the validity of your will.

10. How can I prevent disputes over my will among my family members?

Clear and comprehensive instructions in your will can help minimize the risk of disputes among your family members. It's essential to communicate your wishes openly with your loved ones and address any potential conflicts or concerns during the estate planning process. Seeking professional guidance and involving family members in discussions about your will can also help prevent misunderstandings and disputes.

 

Testamentary Succession: Will it fair and square
Wills / Trusts

Testamentary Succession: Will it fair and square

It is hard to cope up when a loved one passes away, even harder when the deceased is the head of the family. Some plan for succession and create a Will while they are alive. However, many don’t foresee the need and leave it to chance. In such situations, it is tough for the rest of the family members to decide how the property Will be divided amongst and transferred to heirs. Who gets what, when and how remains some uncomfortable questions?

Testamentary Succession is the possible answer. This post shares insights on what does it mean, frequently used terms related to Testamentary succession under The Indian Succession Act 1925, characteristics of a valid Will, importance of having a Will and how Hindu Law governs Testamentary succession.

Meaning of Testamentary Succession:

In simple terms, it is defined as the succession of property by a WILL or TESTAMENT as per applicable rules of law. As per Hindu Law, any male or female can make a Will to transfer his or her property or assets to anyone. The Will is treated as valid and enforceable by law. 

An important point to note here is that the transfer of property happens as per provisions mentioned in the Will and not as per the inheritance law. However, if the Will is invalid or illegal then the transfer or devolution of property happens as per the law of inheritance. Alternatively, Testamentary succession is also referred to as right of inheritance.

People Also Read This: The Law of Inheritance Rights in India

Common Terms related to Testamentary Succession under Hindu Law

It is important to understand the frequently used terms that might sound complicated but are easy to interpret. They are:

  • Will – A legal declaration created by a person expressing clear intention or wish with regards to how his or her property and assets Will be transferred after death.

  • Testator – A person who creates his or her Will.

  • Executor – A person appointed by the Testator for executing the Will.

  • Administrator – A person appointed by the Court for executing the Will.

  • Attestation of Will – It is the process of signing the Will by two witnesses to verify the signatures of the executant.

  • Codicil – A legal document made by Testator and signed by two witnesses for making minor changes in the Will that has already been executed.

  • Probate – It is a documentary evidence of the appointment of the Executor and establishes the validity of the Will.

  • Letter of Administration – A certificate granted by the Court for appointing an Administrator of the Will.

Those who read this Article also Consulted a Lawyer about Will and inheritance. 

Important Characteristics of a Valid Will

A Testator must consider the following essential characteristics while creating his or her Will:

  • It is a written document expressing the testator's clear intentions or desire with respect to transfer of his or her assets or property.

  • It can be created by any person of age 18 years or above who is capable of entering into an agreement.

  • A person influenced by alcohol or fear or affected by illness or fraud cannot make a Will.

  • The Indian Succession Act, 1925 does not prescribe any specific format of writing a Will.

  • Minor unintentional errors in a Will – error in name spellings or details of property – does not alter the true intention of the testator.

  • The Testator should sign the Will which should be countersigned by two witnesses. In cases where the testator cannot sign, thumb impressions of the testator should be taken.

  • The signature of the testator should appear at the bottom of the page or at the end of the contents of the Will.

  • The witnesses to the Will should not be the beneficiaries themselves.

  • A Will comes into force only after the death of the testator.

  • And finally, it is not mandatory to make the Will document on a stamp paper and register it. The testator can also write it on a plain paper.

People Also Read This: How to Inherit Property in India?

Why is having a Will Important?

Each person wishes that his legal heirs stay a part of the cohesive family even after his or her death and that there are no fights over property matters. After all, fair division of property is a sensitive matter. In today’s times, if it is done properly, it can make long lasting relationships and if done otherwise, it breaks relations forever.

It is for this purpose, making a fair Will comes very handy. The testator must clearly document his or her desires with respect to the assets that his legal heirs would carry out after his or her death. The Will must clearly state how the testator's property Will be transferred, to whom it Will be transferred, how much share of property Will be transferred to different heirs and so on.

Generally, a very common question arises here as to what happens if a person dies without leaving a Will behind? In such cases, the division and transfer of property happens by way of law. This is called intestate succession.

Which law governs Testamentary Succession?

In India, Testamentary succession is governed by The Indian Succession Act 1925 including the intestate succession. Most importantly, this law extends to the whole of India but is only applicable to the Wills and codicils of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains by religion.

Also, for Hindus, the intestate succession and all its exceptions are codified in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. It does not apply to Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews. For example, Muslims are allowed to dispose their property and assets according to Muslim Law.

Conclusion

It is always advisable to write a well thought and a fair Will. In case of any ambiguity or in the absence of a Will, there is a possibility that the legal heirs of the deceased would engage in unwanted ugly legal battles for claiming their rightful share.

Legal Experts at LegalKart can help draft a Will that best suits your requirement. 

Those who read this Article also Consulted a Lawyer about Will and inheritance.

Intestate Succession in Hindu Law - Legalkart
Wills / Trusts

Intestate Succession in Hindu Law - Legalkart

Intestate succession means a succession without a will. A will generally dictates how a person plans to transfer his assets or properties after his death to his/her heirs. A person dies intestate when he has not bequeathed his properties according to a will. Succession can either be testate or intestate. 

Meaning of Testate Succession

In some cases, a person leaves behind a Will, which specifies property distribution after their death. In such cases, the Will controls succession.

When succession takes place in this manner, it is known as testamentary succession

Meaning of Intestate Succession

In other cases, a person does not leave behind a will. In such cases, intestate succession law controls succession. Thus, the persons who become entitled to the deceased's properties are the deceased's, legal heirs. In India, the succession law applicable to a deceased's estate depends on their religion. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, etc., have different succession laws. When succession takes place in this manner, it is known as intestate succession. 

Those who read this Article also Consulted a Lawyer about Will. 

 

Intestate Succession under Hindu Law

If the deceased is a Hindu, Hindu Succession law will govern the succession. The Hindu Law of Intestate Succession is in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. 

Two Types of Property

Under Hindu Law, the property is of two types: 

  1. Joint Family Property: The Hindu Joint Family is an ancient social structure prevailing in Indian society. In Hindu Law, specific properties are considered Joint Family Property. Generally, all property inherited from one's father, paternal grandfather, and paternal great-grandfather are considered Joint Family Property. 

  2. Self-Acquired Property: All other properties are considered the Self-Acquired Property of the respective person. The most unambiguous indication of Self-Acquired Property is that it is acquired with the money of one's efforts.

This distinction is important because, depending on where you reside, different rules govern the succession of Joint Family Property and Self-Acquired Property. 

People Also Read This: How to Inherit Property in India?

The succession of Joint Family Property

Depending on where you reside, you will be governed either by Dayabhaga Law or Mitakshara Law. Generally, Hindus living in West Bengal, Orissa, and parts of Assam, are governed by Mitakshara Law, and Mitakshara Law governs all other Hindus. Both of these refer to old schools of religious Hindu law that prevailed in these respective geographical regions. Once upon a time, these schools of law governed the substantial part of Hindu succession. Today, there are of minimal significance. Legally, its only importance in the present is determining the order of intestate succession.

Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act governs the Mitakshara Joint Family Property's succession. When a coparcener dies, their share in the Joint Family Property passes to the legal heirs according to the rules contained in this Section. The process is as follows: 

  1. You divide the whole joint family property amongst the deceased and their legal heirs. Usually, the deceased, their wife, their children (both sons and daughters), and their parents get equal shares.

  2. The share the deceased person receives becomes his self-acquired property. This share passes to the deceased's legal heirs according to the rules governing Self-Acquired Property's succession (see below).

The succession of Self-Acquired Property

The rules governing the succession of Self-Acquired Property of the deceased varies based on the gender of the deceased. However, the same rules apply to all Hindus regardless of whether Dayabhaga Law or Mitakshara Law governs them. 

For male Hindus, there are four categories of legal heirs: Class I heirs, Class II heirs, agnates, and cognates. The Schedule of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 specifies Class I heirs and Class II heirs. An agnate is a person who is (i) neither a Class I heir nor a Class II heir, but (ii) is a descendant of the deceased through a pure male line. A cognate is a person who is (i) neither a Class I heir nor a Class II heir, but (ii) is a descendant of the deceased through a line consisting of both males and females. The order of intestate succession in self-acquired property is as follows:

  1. Class I Heirs: If any Class I heir[s] exist, they get the deceased's whole Self-Acquired Property. If more than one such heir exists, they both get equal shares. The deceased's wife, sons, daughters, and mother are notable Class I heirs. However, the father of the deceased is not a Class I heir. 

  2. Class II Heirs: If not a single Class I heir exists, the whole Self-Acquired Property of the deceased goes to the Class II heirs. The deceased's father, brothers, and sisters are notable Class II heirs. If the father is alive, he takes the whole property. If he isn't alive, then the brothers and sisters take the property in equal shares. 

  3. Agnates: If there are no Class I and Class II heirs, the deceased's agnates take the whole of the Self-Acquired Property. 

  4. Cognates: If there are no Class I and Class II heirs, the deceased's cognates take the whole of the Self-Acquired Property. 

A different set of rules applies to female Hindus. For female Hindus, the order of intestate succession for legal heirs is: (i) sons, daughters, and husband; (ii) heirs of the husband; (iii) parents; (iv) heirs of the father; and (vi) heirs of the mother. Each category is preferred to the later ones, in that order of preference. All heirs of the same class get equal shares of the property. 

People Also Read This: About Inheritance Rights in India


Position of Illegitimate Children

The intestate succession of an illegitimate child is only through his mother. An illegitimate child's share in intestate succession is restricted to his mother and not his father.  

Those who read this Article also Consulted a Lawyer about Property inhritance rights. 

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