When Nakul Sharma and Niharika Pinto planned their Diwali vacation trip from Mumbai to Goa along with their eight-year-old son, Nayan; they anticipated this to be a memorable one. However, while moving in their car early in the morning, they collided head-on with a truck, and unfortunately, they both died on the spot. Luckily, Nayan survived the accident. This was the first tragedy that struck the families of Nakul and Niharika. However, this was not the only tragedy. Both the families were in for more.
The couple lived with their son separately, and no one from both their families was aware of their investments, assets, and liabilities. There was no means to get any information since they could not get hold of any documents related to their financial transactions at home. They were confident that they will be able to track the financial transactions via email ID linked with the mobile. But they were not able to access the mobile due to security code. Resultantly the access to the email was not possible. Adding salt to the wounds, both the families started fighting fiercely for the custody of Nayan. So much so that Nayan missed school for couple of months.
The above incident is a real one (only names changed to protect the identity of the families and the child) that happened a couple of years back. I started wondering how things went wrong when everything seemed smooth till the core members of the family were alive. We witnessed the same friction between siblings of a big business tycoon after his death. We need to answer the important question: how to smoothen the financial and custody-related friction areas germinating after the death of the family’s decision-maker?
In our experience, the closest answer will be to create a well-structured ‘Will.’ A well-structured Will may comprehensively cover all the critical aspects minimizing the friction points in the family. Friction may occur on account of the distribution of assets or squaring off the liabilities or passing on the custody of minor children. The moment a Will is created we are in for the following benefits:
- the author of the Will makes a legal statement on the ways of distribution of his assets, thereby minimizing the frictions.
- Will results in consolidation of assets and liabilities so that the surviving members are aware of the legacy left behind by the deceased member of the family.
- Will ensures that the custody of minor children is given to the right person as per our thought and the succession laws are kept at bay.
- We can also provide directions for elderly care thereby ensuring they are taken care of in the right manner.
There are questions raised that the Will gets challenged in the court and delays the whole process of transmission. I admit to the incidences of the Will getting challenged, but these are one-off cases. Not every Will is challenged, and there are ways to reduce such incidence to the minimum. This can be done by:
- registering the Will,
- getting a medical fitness certificate,
- ensuring the witnesses are genuine, and likewise.
Some people reason out that they have nominations in place; hence making a will is not important. Here they might be ignorant of the fact that legally a nominee is acting as a pass-thru person between the institution where the asset is held and the beneficiary who is the ultimate recipient of the asset.
We may not make a will by stating many issues challenges that defeat the whole purpose of making a will; however, the benefit of making a will outweighs the issues we may face. So, do not procrastinate; make your Will if you have assets in your name, and ensure it will be easily discoverable by the surviving family members who act as per the desires of the written Will.
Your absence will definitely make life difficult for your loved ones; let’s not compound the difficulty by not making the Will.