Corona and Last Will

Article Contributed by
P.N. Kumar, Corporate & Legal Counsel

Untimely deaths of young and old, weak, and strong in these times of global coronavirus pandemic have made us realise that writing of Last Will is not a matter of importance just only at the old age or when nearing a predicted end.

In the second wave of covid pandemic across India, we are grappling with the news of many young passing away too soon leaving behind partners or just minor children with no clue on how to go on.

What is a WILL?

A will is a simple document, can be a white A4 sheet, on which you write how your properties including assets of all types should be distributed after your death. You must write the name(s) of the person(s) who you consider trustworthy and capable of getting the dictates of the Will executed as per words and spirits of your Will. A Will signed by the Testator of the Will, signed by two persons as witnesses and carrying a place of writing of Will is a legally valid Will.

There is neither any restriction of age for the writing of a Will nor there are any restrictions on the number of times you can scrap the old and write a new Will.
A Will is not necessarily to be registered by the Registrar of the Court but if someone raises an issue on the validity or authenticity of the document or the signatories on the Will, then the registered Will stands as valid and as a stronger document.

From time to time the changes in your possessions and assets must be kept updated by adding supplements to the papers already signed so that when there is a material change, you incorporate all in the revised Will document.

When should A Will be Written?

Lessons learnt from the untimely deaths of young, married or unmarried, suggest that Will should be written whenever you become in possession of some property / deposit / investment / insurance policy or future pension scheme etc. One may appoint a family member as a nominee in a bank account or investment but may not want to hand over the final amount of credit to that person on death. Usually, one intends to pass on the property or possessions to one’s own heirs but may also choose to include other close-to-heart people of one’s life in the will inheritance.

Many who have recently died due to the coronavirus pandemic have left without any will. Many couples have gone without any heir or have left behind minor children or children with special needs. If the dead person had a lot of property but no document available to support the transfer of that property / claim to anyone, the minor child cannot claim even in the court nor can take over the assets on his own.
In the absence of any Executant or any Trustee / Guardian appointed, the assets and property remain uncared and unrecovered / non-transferred.

Incredibly sad incidents are coming to light where the orphaned children are being picked up and household effects are being taken away. It creates a lacuna and allows the scope for miscreants to forge false documents and take away the whole property of the family. If the children had known from their parents about their Will and trustee appointed to take care of the interest of minor children, perhaps chances of frauds can be minimalised.

Will is a secret and confidential document but the existence of a Will in the Locker or with a Trustee must be known to the concerned beneficiaries.

If there is no Will, then the dead person’s property will be distributed as per the Indian Succession Act by the District Probate Court. It goes to heirs, including spouse, children, parents, siblings, and other relatives strictly in terms of words and spirits of Law. Perhaps that distribution may be averse to the wishes of the dead.

It is thus necessary that one writes a document in the way one wants to reward their loved ones. In the absence of an adequate document, perhaps the undeserving may get and deserving may remain deprived.

There are a lot of apprehensions that after some time we may see many businesses closed and none caring. With smaller families and kids living away from parents, the transparency of the existence of a legalised document is pertinent in current times.

It is advisable for all individuals who own any asset or hold any investment, be it a bank account, fixed deposit, provident fund, or life insurance, or likely to come in possession from any relative should share the basic information of such accounts with your close family. Corona is not going away soon, so be practical and take the wise step to draw a Will at the earliest, if not tomorrow!

P.N. Kumar, Corporate & Legal Counsel

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