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Decoding a Will for a retail customer with the right questions

Mohini Mahadevia
Mohini Mahadevia Founder, Soulfin. Member of 1 Finance Advisory Committee, Mumbai Chapter

10 April 2024 3 min read
Decoding a Will for a retail customer with the right questions

The discussion of “making a will” brings images of heavy paperwork, legal jargon, lawyers, hefty fees, family feuds, etc to the mind of most people. The lack of information, awareness and discourse in the field of estate planning is depriving millions of Indians of a very powerful tool- a Will. Let us decode a few basics about this instrument:

What is it?

A document made by a person in their lifetime, stating their wishes about the treatment to be given to their assets after their demise. Who the assets should be given to, subject to what conditions, what financial objectives should their assets fulfil, etc can be mentioned in a will.

 How to make it?

By law, a handwritten or printed declaration of your wishes, signed by you in the presence of 2 witnesses and countersigned by them, makes a perfectly valid will. There is no need for stamp papers or heavy legal language.

Is registration/notarization mandatory?

No, it is not. It may be advised in some cases, but an unregistered will or a will not be notarized is also perfectly valid.

Can a will be changed?

Yes, as many times as a person wants to, they can change their will. It is important to destroy the older wills and declare in the latest will that this is the latest one. 

Does the family need to know about the will?

While there is no need for the family/beneficiaries to know about the contents or even the existence of the will, it may be suggested for the family to know about the existence and location of the will. Any other trusted party can also have custody of the will.

Do you have to have a lot of assets to make a will?

No. While my assets may be less in comparison to my neighbors, they are substantial enough to matter to me and my family. If you have assets, you should have a will.

Who can be a witness and do we have to show them the contents of the Will?

Generally, a person of similar or younger age, who knows you well, is dependable, is willing to act as a witness and has nothing to gain from the will is a good option as a witness. Some people prefer to have their doctors and lawyers as the witness but there is no such compulsion.

Who is an Executor?

This is a person appointed by the person making the will to give effect to the will and distribute assets to the beneficiaries as per the wishes of the maker of the will.

What happens after the death of the person who makes the will?

The Will has to be given effect by the executor. In some cases, the Will needs to be merely presented but in some cases, there is a need to obtain a “probate” or a court’s certification about the validity of the will. If there are disputes or contestations, the law takes its course. The result is the transfer of the assets to the intended beneficiaries.


Having a will in place is a simple way to document how you want your assets handled after you’re gone. The process of creating one does not have to be complex or expensive. By recording your wishes properly, you can establish a valid will that specifies your preferences for your estate.

Common misconceptions about wills can make the topic seem intimidating. However, a will merely allows you to legally outline your intentions regarding your belongings and finances. Putting those intentions in writing now can help prevent issues later on and provide for your loved ones as you intend. Some basic estate planning can offer reassurance that you’ve made arrangements for your family’s future according to your values. While handling one’s estate is not a simple subject, taking the step to create a will is a reasonable measure worth considering.

Please note,

The views in the article /blog are personal and that of the author. The idea is to create awareness and not intended to provide any product recommendations.


Discover your MoneySign®

Identify the personality traits and behavioural patterns that shape your financial choices.