Synopsis–Leading legal firms and lawyers are seeing a sharp rise in consultation on writing/revisiting wills and estate planning. Not only mortality, but business losses and market meltdown are pushing the wealthy to make sure that their near and dear ones are taken care off.
Dorothy Sayers, a prolific writer through the golden age of English crime fiction, had famously said wills brought the worst out of human nature. “People who under ordinary circumstances are perfectly upright and amiable, go as curly as corkscrews and foam at the mouth, whenever they hear the words ‘I devise and bequeath’….”, she wrote.
Still, the utility of wills, or inheritance distribution, can’t be overstated as we negotiate the worst of times — the biggest global health scare since the Spanish flu a century ago. With morbid thoughts of mortality gripping the ‘haves’ as much as the rest of us, will-drafting has gained currency among those that have sizeable estates to bequeath — regardless of age and co-morbid conditions.
Take the case of a Mumbai-based FMCG promoter who revisited his ‘will’ recently. From passing on a limited sum to his wife and a larger proportion to his children, he changed that due to the current situation. A promoter at a Delhi-based manufacturing company drafted the will for his Indian assets and sought help of a UK law firm that could help him make a UK will for his assets abroad.
In another such case, a US expat of an MNC based in Mumbai, after having bought properties in India, sought advice on a tax structure to ensure that his family is secure through wills in India and in the US as per the prevailing laws in both jurisdictions.
As Covid -19 spreads across India, many decide to draw up wills, in a country where death is still considered a taboo.
And the underwriters are not complaining.
Leading legal firms and lawyers are seeing a sharp rise in consultation on writing/revisiting wills and estate planning. Not only mortality, but business losses and market meltdown are pushing the wealthy to make sure that their near and dear ones are taken care off.
Mumbai-based WillJini has witnessed about 15,600 queries about Will writing and various affiliated services during FY20, those queries rose almost 400% to over 58,000 queries during FY21. In FY22, it’s already at 19,500 in 40 days.
An increasing number of people in their 30s are making wills that includes immovable assets and also accounts on social networking sites. Among the middle aged and elderly, real estate forms the main chunk followed by bank deposits, paintings, etc.
Post the second wave, the process of making and revisiting wills and estate planning has accelerated. “A Will in place only smoothens the process and gives security to the beneficiary,” says Saurabh Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer, Waterfield Advisors, a leading independent Multi-Family Office.
Additionally, a residuary clause governs distribution of assets where no beneficiary has been defined. With significant increase in various categories of assets, this clause becomes important to ensure no unintended distribution can happen to any beneficiary.
Just as there is a business continuity plan, there should be a Wealth Continuity Plan too, says Agrawal. “We have seen at least 70-75 % of families we work with are putting succession planning in place so that the legacy is protected”, he said.
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