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Thursday, Jul 22, 2004

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A will in the present with baggage from the past

D. Murali

CONFUSION in Kolkata is about Priyamvada's will and Lodha's luck, even as Birlas look blank. "Where there's a will there's a way," they say, but here's a will that's beating its way to courtroom battles and newspaper headlines.

Since everybody is tense about where the Rs 5,000 crore plus property would go to, at present we're not looking at will as an expression of future tense.

`Will' as a noun is the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action; and a desire or intention, as the Concise Oxford English Dictionary would explain.

A more appropriate meaning, for the current context, is, "a legal document containing instructions for the disposition of one's money and property after one's death."

That is why, it is said that one of the first questions any new visitor to heaven is asked is: "Did you make your will?"

If one said `no' in response, the usual comment would be, "Oh, all hell will break loose, down there!" But something almost similar can happen even when there is a will, all because a CA came into the picture.

`Will,' is "a legal document which allows its creator a limited afterlife during which it may choose to placate, amuse, gratify, or anger the survivors," is a pick from the limited encyclopaedia of `Grave Terminology' from

The Indian Succession Act, 1925, defines a will as "the legal declaration of the intention of the testator with respect to his property which he desires to be carried into effect after his death."

A will totally in the handwriting of the testator, signed and dated is a `holographic will', informs

Everybody's Legal Dictionary ( has a whole section on `wills and estate planning'.

It talks of `living will' that is a legal document in which you state your wishes about certain kinds of medical treatments and life-prolonging procedures; "The document takes effect if you can't communicate your own healthcare decisions."

There can also be a `pour-over will', one that `pours over' property into a trust when the will maker dies.

For sheer thrill, you may note that will rhymes with too many words, such as, bill, fill, hill, jill, kill, mill, nil, pill, spill, till and so on. For techies, WiLL is `WIreless Local Loop'. Well, before you yell, let me move on to Wikipedia: "A will or testament is a documentary instrument by which a person regulates the rights of others over his property after his death."

Thus, in Julius Caesar, Act III, scene II, you would hear Antony saying: "But here's a parchment with the seal of Caesar; I found it in his closet, `tis his will: Let but the commons hear this testament."

Then, Antony builds suspense around the will so citizens become restless and cry: "The will, the will! We will hear Caesar's will." After much drama, Antony would say: "Here is the will, and under Caesar's seal. To every Roman citizen he gives, To every several man, seventy-five drachmas."

If, for instance, Rs 5,000 crore had been divided among the one-lakh CAs, each would have got Rs 5 lakh and there would have been no complaints against Lodha at least from his fellow accountants.

"The will, if not purely Roman in origin, at least owes to Roman law its complete development," adds Wikipedia.

"The early Roman will differed from the modern will in important respects. It was effectual during the lifetime of the person who made it; it was made in public, all knew of the legator's intentions; and it could not be changed."

Not so now, because you can change your mind right up to the last minute, using a `codicil' — an instrument made in relation to a will explaining, altering or adding to its disposition. informs of different types of will.

To say, "A will be entitled to flat at Mumbai after my death (death of testator) only if he marries C," is a conditional or contingent will; joint will is made by two or more persons and operates on the death of each testator; and reciprocal wills have two or more persons bequeathing their properties to each other, such as husband and wife making a reciprocal will bequeathing their properties to each other.

There are many dos and don'ts for those who want to make a will before it is too late.

An anecdote from hell can be instructive because it talks of a new arrival there who when being introduced to the other inmates exclaimed at one point, "Hey, I'd put your name in my will!"

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