Through a Will, we offer specific instructions about what has to be done with movable and immovable properties after our death. As simple as it sounds, there are several misconceptions and many are left confused with the legalities, while preparing a Will. Having conducted many sessions on making a Will in the past, Moneylife Foundation conducted yet another seminar on ‘How to write your own Will’ at the request of the Foundation members. Like the other events, this event too, received an overwhelming response. Bapoo Malcolm, advocate, Bombay High Court, a man of many interests and the speaker for the event, covered issues related to wills, like registration, litigation possibilities, witnesses, executors, intestate problems and adoption. He also discussed types of wills, including privileged wills, joint wills and holographic wills.
Who can prepare a Will? Mr Malcolm, a well experienced lawyer in both civil and criminal matters, said, “A Will can be made by any person who is not a minor and who is of sound mind. You need two witnesses, preferably independent of each other. The Will must list all the immovable and movable properties you own, and who you wish to will them to after your death.” Remember, however, that you can only bequeath what belongs to you and what is self-earned; otherwise the distribution is governed by various Succession Acts.
Explaining the simplicity of creating a Will, Mr Malcolm described that, “A Will is a simple document to be written in simple language. Preferably, avoid legalese. You simply have to give specific instructions about what has to be done with the movable and immovable properties you own and the property you might acquire in future. It would be best if it reads like a balance sheet. Just specify the property and the person.” A Will should be legible and clear to understand.
There appear to be several misconceptions about the making of a Will. One was that a Will needs to be registered. Mr Malcolm cleared the doubt. He said, “The government does want to encourage people to make Wills, so they haven’t made it compulsory to register a Will. You can even make a Will on a serviette. So long as the basic requirements are fulfilled, the Will is legal. Registration is a grey area, mainly because if you then wish to make a second Will, you may not have the time to register it. If you realise the day you die that a relative is useless, you may not be able register this second Will. Then, does the unregistered Will have more value than the registered one? An unregistered Will could easily be lost; however, registration takes care of the safety issue. At least, if it is registered, you know that it is always in some government ward.”
A Will needs to be clear and concise, leaving no room for misinterpretation. “A Will would be interpreted according to the word of the law, which may not assign the same meaning as you intended.” For example, while mentioning names it is important to specify the relationship along with the date of birth of the person, as there could be common names. Also, if you wish to intentionally leave someone out of your Will, especially, if it is a close family member, it is better to mention the name in the Will. If not, the person may contest the Will by saying you have forgotten his/ her name, he explained.
Mr Malcolm spoke of the basic components of a Will as well as terms such as testator, executor, codicil, testamentary guardian and a detailed discussion on probate of a Will. He covered issues related to Wills, like registration, litigation possibilities, witnesses, executors, intestate problems. He also answered the queries of Moneylife Foundation members who raised their doubts.