Most people look at Wills differently from the way they look at other documents. There is a sense of finality in writing a Will, not helped by the fact that it is called a ‘Last Will and Testament’. In reality, a Will is nothing more than an expression of your intent.
A Will tells the world at large, after you are gone, that you wanted your wealth to go to a certain person / people or to an organization. That does not mean however that you should wait till the proverbial ‘right age’ to write your Will. It is never too early to plan for the future, and a Will can be changed as many times as you wish.
So, how do I write my Will?
Since a Will is purely an expression of intent, you can write it even on the back of a tissue paper and it will be perfectly valid (Although this is true, please use a more respectable medium!)
Start by outlining all your assets and wealth. Describe the asset. So don’t just say car, say ‘My red Hyundai Santro, TN – 02 – AN 2331”.
Next, decide to whom those assets and that wealth must go. For example, you can divide the property between your children in a 60 – 40 ratio, with your daughter getting 60% and your son getting 40%. If you divide your car in a 60 – 40 ratio, it means that the car can be sold and your children will share the resale price in that ratio.
After that, clearly state who gets all the remaining assets. For example, you might have carefully divided all your assets but forgotten to mention your gold ring which is in your bank locker. Clearly state that ‘All my remaining assets will go to…”
Who is an executor?
An executor is a person whose responsibility it is to ensure that your property is divided the way you wanted. It is not mandatory to mention that in your Will, but it is very strongly recommended. Mention how the executor is known to you (it could even be your best friend)
And just to be doubly sure, appoint an ‘Alternate Executor’ in case your primary executor is unable or unwilling to perform his duty.
What more can I do with my Will?
Plenty more, actually.
You can create a ‘Life Interest’. This means that a property will be used by somebody as long as that person is alive, after which it will go to someone else. This may sound complicated, but it is a common strategy.
For example, you have an ailing mother and a son. You want to give your flat to your son but also want to be sure that your mother will have money for food and medicines. You can create a life interest, which means that as long as your mother is alive, the income from the property will be used to take care of her. After her death, your son will enjoy the property.
Then you can create a Trust. You may say that your house’s rental income will be used to create a trust. The purpose of the trust may be to pay for the education of your son right until he finishes a post-graduate degree in a college of his choice. After that (clearly state this too), it will go to the Cancer Foundation, or go to your daughter, or be used for some other purpose. Naturally, you need to mention who the trustee will be.
Finally, you can appoint a Guardian for your young child. This is only necessary if your child is under 18 years of age. The Guardian will take care of the interests of the child, its education, health and overall well being.
Sometimes, people use a Will to explain why they ‘did not’ leave property to somebody. For example, ‘I did not leave property to my son because he has a good job with IBM and does not need my wealth’. This is purely optional. The only advantage is that tomorrow, if the son tries to fight with his siblings over your property, this one line may make all the difference.
You can also use your Will to thank those who meant the world to you when you were alive. ‘I would like to thank my wife Shailaja who was my best friend and loyal companion throughout my life’
So your Will can be a lot more than a distribution system. It can be used as a caretaking mechanism, ensuring that the people you loved are not only provided for, but looked after too.