10 – Must I make a will?

Must I make my will? Should I make a will? Is it necessary? Or is it desirable? Or is it prudent? What will happen if I do not make any will?

Why should I not just let it be? My relatives will manage my property as they can. They will settle amicably if they so wish. They might fight if they want it that way. But they might fight even if I do make a will?

I will not be alive to see what happens. I will leave everything here. Those who remain after me should manage.

Why must someone make a will? When I posed this question to my friends, I received these answers:

  • It will minimise litigation.
  • Family disputes can be avoided.
  • Family disputes will get settled faster.

Disputes lie in minds of persons. An unhappy soul is bound to have differences, whether there is a will or not. If I have made a will, any unhappy relative can decide to fight.

  • My children will not have difficulties in getting what I wish to give them.
  • My heirs need not spend time and money in obtaining succession certificate or similar orders.

Those officers, authorities or persons who are required to take decisions about my properties after me ask for succession certificate or similar court orders because they need protection for their actions. They are looking for a discharge from liability, so that they are not required to defend their actions. If I make a will, they will still want to make sure that it is a valid will, and is my last will. They can still ask for court orders.

  • I can plan for the next generation.

If I take this view, my will can allow that planning. But I can take another view. Why should I bother to plan for my next generation? Why not let them take their own decisions and do what they want? Why not have faith in their decisions? Both are valid views.

  • If I am a global citizen with investments or businesses across countries.

I must make a will for this reason so that I can effectively give properties in different countries in a manner that they will be easily administered in those jurisdictions. Also because the law of inheritance in these countries is not the same. I can make one will covering all properties, or separate wills for properties in different countries. I must ensure to fulfil the legal requirements about wills that apply in the country where my property is located.

  • I can decide who will inherit.
  • I can prefer some heirs who take care of me, over others who do not.
  • I can give properties as I want to.
  • I can make a trust by will.

These four state correctly some purposes of making wills. If I want to give a particular asset to a particular person, I must make a will.

There can be other reasons also.

Before I discuss them, I must take you through the law that will apply to inheritance of my properties if I do not make a will.

That law depends upon my religious faith: whether I am a Hindu, Muslim, Parsi or Christian. The list of heirs depends upon whether I am a man or a woman. How much my heirs will get depends on the number of close relatives who survive me.

When I do not make a will, my property devolves (goes) by ‘intestate’ succession. The word ‘intestate’ means ‘without a testament (will)’.

We will discuss the law of intestate succession. That will provide answers to the question: Why must I make a will?

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– Nilima Bhadbhade

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