Money & Banking

Have a will — then you may have a way

NS Vageesh Mumbai | Updated on January 13, 2018

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SBICAP Trustee Company is helping frame wills online for as little as ₹2,500

Writing wills is an unpleasant task for most Indians — almost like buying a life insurance policy. Broaching the topic of one’s death is taboo and many will do anything to avoid buying a policy or writing a will. Many simply don’t.

That’s changing slowly, of course. With greater prosperity comes the wish of leaving the family in a better condition — and that has led to sale of life insurance policies picking up.

An insurance agent does not have to gingerly beat around the topic, clear his throat a couple of times, utter the unutterable, and collect the premium.

V Muralidharan, Chief Executive Officer, SBICAP Trustee Company, a wholly-owned step-down subsidiary of SBI, hopes something similar will happen with the writing of wills.

At a low cost

SBICAP Trustee, which is mainly in the business of offering trusteeship and custodial services, offers assistance in framing wills as part of its corporate social responsibility activities. The company certainly wants more Indians to write one and is willing to offer the service (helping generate an executable will) online for a fee of just around ₹2,500. That would be a fraction of what it would cost if done by lawyers whose fees can sometimes depend on the value of your assets.

The few who write wills know the process is a bit cumbersome with multiple visits to law offices, with iterations and reiterations moving back and forth.

SBICAP Trustee offers a sample will that should normally meet 90 per cent of your requirements. If, however, you think you would be comfortable having it vetted further by some lawyers or legal firms, they have a panel and offer their services.

The clearest incentive to write a will is simply this: if you die without writing a will, your assets get divided equally among your legal heirs or successors — as per law, the Succession Act.

So, if you wanted to leave your vintage car to your third son or your favourite painting to your darling daughter, it is better to do it as per your wish recorded in writing — rather than have it decided by law or allow it to be fought over. You can record your preferences and frame your will at your convenience.

Guaranteed?

Do these ‘online wills’ offer a guarantee that it will not lead to further problems or get fought over? Muralidharan is quick to disabuse one of any illusions on that score.

He says categorically that every will can be challenged legally — even the highest priced will or the one written by the country’s top-most lawyers. What a well-written will can, however, do is pass the test of a challenge, he says.

The SBICAP Trustee site for online wills has seen a lot of interest recently — with over 8,000 registrations. Customers need to register themselves, get their credentials verified, pay the required fee and then submit the data that will get incorporated into a draft will.

They can make changes, if any, within about 30 days after which the final is sent to the customer for signature and countersignature by two witnesses. A detailed FAQ answers customer queries. So, how many of these registrations are actually translating into wills? Admittedly, that is a low number and may take a while to pick up — unless customers defy the stereotype.

Muralidharan knows the odds are high but thinks that changing social mores and increasing digital presence of younger Indians may bring about the necessary change in the next few years.

Published on March 08, 2017

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