By: Viqas Malik and RomaanMuneeb
In March this year, with the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus,a SARS 2 respiratory illness known as Covid-19, caused widespread health and wealth devastation around the world. The World Health Organization categorized COVID-19as a“Pandemic” and the only known and successful measure to curb the virusfrom spreading was by way of imposing a strict lockdown. The Government of India too had little choice and announced a countrywide lockdown. COVID-19is a first of its kind after decades, whichunfortunately is a multipronged attack on our health,lives, wealth and economy.The spectrum of risk that refracts from this pandemic is beyond comprehension and risks are broad enough to impact an individual on personal as well as professionalfront, the dependents are also destined to suffer the impact.
“WILL” you ensure!
In normal times,a “Will” was ordinarily prepared by those who were running towards old age and would foresee disputes amongst their family members after their demise. Hence, to protect their family a“Will” was prepared.
But in these strange times where only uncertainty is certain and taking an ill person to the hospital looks more like a State sponsored abduction with the aftermath even worse as the Patients are thereafter not even allowed to communicate with their relatives in any manner. The patients who fall to the illness are far from making any financial decisions and only get unceremoniouslast rites and leave the world with only hope to see the loved ones for the last time.
In these strange times it is important for all to have a “Will”, this would save legal heirs from protracted litigation and any disputes that might occur between them in future, which would spoil their future relations. Preparing a Will attains a greater importance where children are minor and lack the necessary knowledge of laws of succession or account of the number and types of properties they will inherit. Hence, even where there is a iota of sketchy history in purchasing, maintaining or managing properties, a WILL is a must.So as to make sure that the spouse, children and legal heirs are not left homeless to unwarranted claims of extended family members or any other undesirable person.
How “WILL” helps?
Will is a document which facilitates the distribution of assets of deceased amongst legal heirs in a proportion,which the Will maker decides during his lifetime; the distribution will only happenafter the death of the Will maker and before that his ownership can neither be challenged or taken away and it is only after his death that the properties will be distributed as desired. When one prepares his Will, he doesn’t need to disclose it to anyone or does not even have do disclose the properties or the ratio in which the properties will be distributed. It is only that the Will is opened and read to the beneficiaries and family members after the Will maker has passed away and never before that.
A Will can include all movable and immovable properties, investments, etc. including investments made in electronic form and also covers future procurements. The common perception that “Will” only includes land, building or house is wrong. “Will”can include all properties earned, brought or created in ones lifetime like Jewelry, Cars, Cash, Bank Accounts etc.
Why “WILL”is important?
When a person dies intestate i.e. dies without leaving a Will behind, the distribution of properties is decided by the concerned State according to its laws, Delhi will have separate laws as from UP and then the distribution also gets impacted on the basis of religion as the distribution laws of inheritance would be different in Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians etc. Preparing a Will can prevent any loss to the future receivers of the property from any unforeseen event.
In the absence of a Will, the most affected are usually the daughters qua whom there is inconsistency of judicial pronouncements and also different laws of inheritance deal with share of daughters differently. Hence, the right of the daughters can be very well protected with a “Will”.
Contents of the “WILL”
A Will generally includes, beneficiaries the one on whom the properties will devolve upon; the Will may also mention the details of an executor who carries out the provisions of the Will in the manner prescribed, therein. Instructions can also be placed in the Will as to how the beneficiaries will receive the assets after the demise of the Will maker. The Will can also have guardians of property in case of minor children.
Who can make a “WILL”?
Section 59 of the Indian Succession Act lays the down simple criteria for making a Will i.e.every person of sound mind not being a minor may create a “Will”.
The Provisions to create a Will are simple yet there are restrictions in the Act, which are to be taken into consideration while preparing a Will in order to avoid any legal consequences with respect to the sanctity of the Will. The rules as to Hindu Male Inheritance and Hindu Female Inheritance would also vary and registration of Will is yet another important aspect that needs to be known.
So “WILL” You?
(The Authors Viqas Malik &RomaanMuneebare Lawyers at the J&K High Court. The Authors can be reached at [email protected] or +91 9711050507.)