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5 Tips For NRIs While Making A Will In India

5 Tips For NRIs While Making A Will In India

It has now become the need of the hour for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to have a sound estate plan in place.

Team Yellow

5

n

min read

July 14, 2023

With a growing number of Indians now settling in countries around the world, be it for work, education or to be closer to their loved ones, it has become the need of the hour for Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to have a sound estate plan in place. This is especially crucial when a person’s assets, such as real estate, or bank accounts, are located in different countries.

Given the complexities that come with asset transfer as well as the different rules for taxation in different jurisdictions, it’s important to have a robust estate plan in place to maintain financial hygiene and ensure smooth transmission of assets. One of the simplest yet effective tools for estate planning is making a Will, which brings with it a number of benefits.

Here are 5 quick tips for NRIs to keep in mind while making a Will.

1. Make A Separate Will For Indian Assets

Since the succession laws of each country differ, it is best to have separate Wills for your assets in each country. Create an inventory of all your assets in the Will, with their complete details, such as the full address and location for property, or the bank name and account number in the Will.

You can even mention your share in jointly held assets, or your share in an ancestral property. Similarly, ensure that you have included the correct and complete identity details of each of your beneficiaries, and the percentage or portion you wish to allot to each one of them.

A comprehensive Will helps prevent any possibility of confusion or conflict later. Making a separate Will for Indian assets has its own benefits, because the laws pertaining to execution of a foreign Will in India are complex.

2. Ensure The Will Is Legally Valid In India

Writing a legally valid Will in India is easy - it does not require notarisation, registration, or execution on stamp paper. To write a Will in India, one only needs to be a minimum of 18 years of age and of sound mind. The person writing the Will must hand sign it, along with two independent Witnesses for it to become legally valid in India.

This is important to know, because different countries have different requirements based on their local laws for making a valid Will. For example, in Dubai, non-Muslims must register their Will at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Wills Service, as per the principles of testamentary freedom.

3. Appoint An Executor In The Will

An Executor is essentially someone who helps execute the Will. Their duties include managing the distribution of assets, the last rites of the deceased, and paying off the debts and taxes from their estate. Although not a legal mandate, it is crucial to appoint an Executor so that your wishes are fulfilled as per your instructions.

Without an Executor, the court appoints an administrator who will then interpret the Will as per their understanding, which may not align with your wishes. Therefore, carefully consider appointing a trustworthy Executor, preferably someone residing in India, who can help manage your Indian assets, without requiring your loved ones to travel and run pillar to post to claim them.

4. Add A Nominee For All Financial Assets

Generally, as per the laws in India, in the case of a person’s passing, a Nominee is the Trustee of their asset. This means that a Nominee can claim the release of the asset from the financial institution and hold it for the benefit of the rightful owners (ie the legal heirs). When a Nominee has been added, access to the asset becomes quick and easy.

To make the process of transferring the assets to your successors even more seamless, ensure that the Nominee you have named on the asset is the same person who is entitled to it as per your Will, ie make the Nominee and the Beneficiary of the asset one and the same.

5. Keep Your Loved Ones Informed

All our lives we strive to build a secure future for our loved ones, but never actually discuss the details of our plans with them. Oftentimes, when a person passes away without a Will, their family members are left unaware of the assets they have left for them.

According to a Lok Sabha report, it is estimated that about ₹150,000 crore worth of financial assets are lying unclaimed in India, largely because family members are unaware of their existence. This is why it is important to keep your family informed of your estate plan, especially if you are an NRI having assets in India, and to keep the channels of communication open, so they know what your wishes are and are not left guessing at a time when they are already emotionally vulnerable.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of the number of assets, it is crucial for NRIs to have an estate plan in place. This becomes all the more important if they have assets distributed in different countries, or are supporting dependent family members overseas.

Without a Will, the distribution of assets is decided by the succession laws of India based on one’s religion, which may not align with the NRI's wishes. In the absence of an estate plan, laws of different countries will apply, which will only increase the post-demise complexities for the family members left behind.

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Team Yellow
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n

min read
July 14, 2023

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