Where there is a ‘will’, there is a change

With changing circumstances, you should periodically review and update your will

Life will always change, and after one has made a will, personal and financial circumstances may change, making the initial will obsolete and sometimes ineffective.

Some major life events — such as marriage, divorce, having children, demise of a family member who was a beneficiary, changing your mind about your beneficiaries, changing your mind about executor/guardian or their demise, buying new assets and disposing off existing assets, migration to a foreign land and/or acquisition of property in a foreign land — may necessitate revision of a will.

It is advisable to review your will at least once in every five years to ensure that it reflects your altered state of affairs and still manifests your wishes.

The easiest way of changing a will is to revoke (tear, burn or destroy) the old one and make a new one. A will, by nature, is a revocable document and you can make changes to it as many times as you want during your lifetime. If minor changes are required, you can prepare a codicil, which is an amendment to the existing will stating the changes made. A codicil also needs to be executed like a will — signed by the testator and attested by two witnesses. Preferably, one should maintain a soft copy of the will and make the necessary changes and create a new will instead of preparing a codicil.

If you buy assets in another country, you can consider creating a concurrent will for those assets so that it complies with the laws of that country. If you move to another country, the choice of the guardian may change and you may choose to appoint a guardian where your heirs reside.

Sometimes, couples prepare mutual wills where they bequeath properties to each other and then divide the properties amongst their children. If either of them revises the will, he/she should ensure that the spouse also revises the will to carry out the common intention.

A will comes into effect after the demise of a person and one’s last will would prevail.

However, if you have registered a previous will, it is advisable to register the subsequently amended wills, too, so that nobody can questions the validity of the last will, although this is not a legal necessity.

Nevertheless, the initial will should be drafted properly, so that it requires minimal changes. For example, a residuary clause may provide that any newly acquired assets will be inherited by a designated beneficiary. It may provide that upon the demise of a beneficiary, the assets that such beneficiary was entitled to, would be inherited by his/her spouse and/or children. It would appoint alternative executors and guardians who would serve if the prior designated executor or guardian fails to serve, etc.

An annexure mentioning the list of assets can be incorporated into the will by reference. For example, in the will, one may designate a beneficiary who would inherit the mutual funds and stocks, but any changes in the mutual funds and stocks can be incorporated in the annexure which can be updated regularly without revising the will.

Expel

If your family has knowledge about the contents of a will, and if you — the will-maker — decides to disinherit any family member in a subsequent will, you can mention the reasons for disinheriting. For example, the family member may have received gifts during lifetime or had been unsupportive to his parents in old age.

If you change a beneficiary under a will, you should make the necessary changes in the nomination facility with the banks, financial institutions, housing society, etc, to reduce any kind of conflict between the nominee and the beneficiary.

The writer is AVP, Succession Planning, Emkay Wealth Management

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