An online will is a new way to secure your assets and leave your loved ones trouble-free. Besides being an authentic document, it is cheaper than paying lawyers
By Ramesh Menon
TECHNOLOGY has changed the way we live. And now it has even changed the way we die. Many are now writing their wills online without the help of a lawyer as it is a simple and uncomplicated process. The phenomenon is relatively new in India and just a handful of firms are doing it.
HDFC Securities has launched an e-will service and specialized websites too are offering the same service. The fee is as low as Rs 4,000. This is much lower than what lawyers charge; some of them charge around `1 lakh to draft a will. Mumbai-based Sharad Samant, 74, a former senior project executive with the State Bank of India, wanted to write a will. He spoke to solicitors. They said that it would cost `25,000 to draft the will and another `25,000 for registration. Samant did some research and stumbled on the concept of an online will system. He found that it costs just Rs 5,000. He wrote the draft and sent it to an online will service which made minor changes and finalized it. He then walked into the registrar’s office in Mumbai to discover that registration of the will would cost just `440.
“I was amazed to discover that there are government departments that are so efficient and courteous. I did not pay any bribe. It was all done in just 90 minutes. I am so glad I opted to make a will online,” he said.
URGENCY OF WILL
Writing a will has become more relevant today as many families have fractured relationships. Even corporate families are increasingly breaking up, unlike the old times when they bonded together for the sake of business. Mumbai-based Gokul Das, Managing Direc-tor and CEO, Warmond Trustees and Exe-cutors Pvt Ltd, says: “Writing a will is one of the most unselfish things you could do for your loved ones to help them in a critical juncture of their lives.”
Out of many reasons why people don’t make their will in India is lack of awareness. Others avoid doing it fearing the expense. Many also delay doing so thinking it is too early to write one. And, then, death deals a sudden blow. Many families suffer financially when the person they depend on suddenly passes away without making a will. Deter-mining who gets what becomes complicated and there are invariable fights.
Gagan Rai, Managing Director and CEO of National Securities Depository Limited, which is the depository for the equity market in India, says: “Writing a will is a wise decision that will be perceived as wisdom by the next generation.”
And it has become so much easier to do so. The online explosion has dramatically changed our lifestyles, the way we shop, conduct our financial transactions, pay our taxes, fix our insurance policies and communicate with each other. Writing an online will is another new trend punctuating this sphere.
An online will is drafted by registering oneself on the portal of the company that deals with online wills. To begin with, you fill in details of your assets and heirs in a standard format. You then upload it on the portal. The will is then drafted by legal experts and sent back to you for a review. Once you confirm it, the will is finalized and is either emailed or sent by post, depending on how you want it. Now, carefully review the data to check for errors. You make the payment online too. After incorporating the changes, if any, the will is emailed or sent by courier. Rest in peace now.
Make sure the will is signed in the presence of two witnesses. Otherwise, it will not be valid. You might want to have a doctor certifying that you are of sound mind. This will avoid legal complications that could arise if some relative challenges the will saying that you didn’t know what you were writing. The e-will can be updated or changed later if you want. It is not carved in stone.
In the West, writing a will is almost a given, with over 70 percent of people opting for it. However, in India, it is yet to reach the double digit mark. But succession planning will pick up here too with more wealth being created. Rajesh Narain Gupta, managing partner, SNG Partners, Mumbai, told India Legal: “The online will platform is a great boon, not only to wealth management players, but also to all those who cannot afford the expensive fees of a lawyer.
Succession planning is an integral part of wealth management. Will writing is bound to gain momentum with growing wealth and the online platform will provide easy access. It has created a good ecosystem around the wealth management space.”
The cost of a normal will can vary, based on location, asset size, estate planning requirements and the experience of the lawyer. Normally, a lawyer would charge more than Rs 10,000 for drafting a will. Lawyers charge much more if the wealth of the individual is huge. Compared to that, an e-will is easier to make. It saves time and is cheaper.
Online will writing services started last year. They were joint ventures of NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure with Mumbai-based Warmond Trustees and Executors and HDFC Securities with Legal Jini.
While NSDL offers the service via a new website, www.ezeewill.com, HDFC Securities’s e-will service is an addition to the bouquet of online services that the firm offers. NSDL e-Gov and Warmond Trustees and Executors tied up with the largest and the oldest private sector bank in Kerala, Federal Bank. This exclusive tie-up will offer the EzeeWill facility through the Federal Bank website.
Radhakrishnan Palakkot, 59, who runs a factory of construction components in Palla-kad in Kerala, opted to make an online will as he found that it has a privacy of its own. “Besides, it was so comfortable and easy to do. There must be awareness created about this modern service,” he said.
Many worry that if they opt for the friendly online will process, their personal details will be out in public space. That should not be a cause of worry. Service providers offer security of information, as this is a highly sensitive financial matter.
Portals assure confidentiality and safety of the personal data submitted. In fact, they remove all the details from their records once the online will is finalized.
So rest easy.