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The 12 Most Misunderstood Facts About Wills Every Indian Should Know

The 12 Most Misunderstood Facts About Wills Every Indian Should Know

When it comes to Wills and estate planning, misunderstandings and misconceptions abound. We shed light on some.

Team Yellow



min read

March 20, 2024

When it comes to Wills and estate planning, misunderstandings and misconceptions abound. By clarifying these often overlooked or misunderstood aspects, we can shed light on why creating a Will should be at the top of your priority list. Here are 10 nuances that, once understood, might just motivate you to start drafting your own Will sooner rather than later.

1. A Will is more than just distributing assets

A Will is a fundamental legal document in estate planning, that enables a person (known as the Testator) to outline their wishes regarding the distribution of their estate, including personal property, real property, and other assets to designated Beneficiaries.

This is a common definition one might find on Google, and while distributing assets is a key component, an often overlooked fact is that a Will also encompasses other key aspects of one's life such as appointing Guardians for minor children, specifying funeral arrangements, and other final wishes. Recognising the broad scope of a Will emphasises its value beyond mere asset distribution.

2. Drafting a Will doesn't ensure a valid Will

Many assume that simply drafting a Will is enough to ensure its enforceability. However, the truth is, not all Wills are created equal. A common misconception is that any document labeled as a "Will" automatically holds legal weight. In reality, the validity of a Will is determined by strict legal requirements.

To be legally binding, a Will must meet specific criteria, including:

  • It should be drafted by a person of sound mind.
  • The Testator (person making the Will) should be minimum 18 years of age.
  • The Will must be signed by the Testator.
  • The Will must be witnessed by at least two Witnesses.
  • Failure to adhere to these requirements could render the Will invalid, leaving your estate vulnerable to disputes and complications.

3. "Last Will" isn't synonymous with "Last Will and Testament"

Contrary to common perception, the term "Last Will" may suggest a sense of finality that is not entirely accurate. It's often mistaken for "Last Will and Testament," a phrase commonly associated with a legal declaration of one's final wishes. This misunderstanding can lead individuals to perceive a Will as a document reserved for end-of-life scenarios, overlooking its broader purpose.

The irony lies in the fact that a Will is anything but final—it's intended to be a dynamic and evolving legal document that reflects your changing circumstances and intentions throughout life. Your "Last Will" is simply the most recent iteration of this ongoing process, capturing your current wishes at a specific point in time.

Your "Last Will" is simply the most recent iteration of this ongoing process, capturing your current wishes at a specific point in time.

4. Wills can (and should) be updated

Contrary to the notion that a Will is a once-and-done affair, it's essential to update your Will periodically to reflect significant life changes. Marriages, divorces, births, and major asset acquisitions or sales can all impact your estate plan.

This flexibility underscores the dynamic nature of a Will, making it an integral part of your evolving financial strategy.

Additionally, maintaining an up-to-date asset register within your Will is crucial. Listing your assets ensures that your loved ones are aware of all your holdings, preventing any assets from being overlooked or forgotten.

A Will that isn't kept current with your assets and life circumstances may not fully capture your intentions, rendering it less effective in guiding the distribution of your estate.

In essence, a Will that isn't regularly updated becomes less useful over time. By staying proactive and revising your Will as needed, you ensure that your final wishes are accurately reflected and your loved ones are properly provided for.

5. Probate is not mandatory for all estates

The probate process is the court-supervised procedure to authenticate the deceased person's last Will, settle any debts, and distribute the estate to the surviving spouse, children, or other legal heirs as specified in the Will.

Contrary to common belief, the probate process is not universally mandatory for all estates. In India, probate may only be required under specific circumstances, such as when dealing with immovable property in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai, or if the Will was created in these jurisdictions. Understanding these regional variations and property types is crucial for simplifying the probate process and minimising any potential burden on your family.

Read more: Understanding Probate Of Will In India: A Comprehensive Guide

Legal heirs and Beneficiaries play distinct yet interconnected roles in the distribution of an individual's estate.

6. Legal Heirs and Beneficiaries are not the same

Legal heirs and Beneficiaries play distinct yet interconnected roles in the distribution of an individual's estate. Legal heirs, as designated by law under the prevailing succession laws based on the religion of the deceased in India, inherit assets in the absence of a Will, following a predetermined framework outlined by the said laws.

On the other hand, Beneficiaries are individuals specifically named in the deceased person's Will to receive designated assets or benefits. While Beneficiaries may or may not coincide with legal heirs, the act of writing a Will grants the Testator the power to override the default distribution provided by the prevailing succession laws, ensuring assets are allocated according to their specific wishes.

Understanding this distinction highlights the importance of drafting a Will as a strategic tool to navigate estate distribution and tailor inheritance according to personal preferences rather than statutory regulations.

7. Separate Wills are better than joint Wills

While joint Wills may seem like a convenient option for couples, separate Wills offer distinct advantages that shouldn't be overlooked.

Separate Wills provide individuals with the flexibility to tailor their estate plans according to their unique circumstances and preferences. Unlike joint Wills, which combine the assets and wishes of both parties into a single document, separate Wills allow each individual to express their intentions independently.

This independence is particularly valuable in cases where there are differences in assets, Beneficiaries, or wishes between partners. Separate Wills ensure that each person's desires are accurately reflected and can be amended or revoked without affecting the other party's provisions.

Furthermore, separate Wills offer greater clarity and simplicity in the probate process. With individual documents, there's no ambiguity regarding the allocation of assets or the interpretation of intentions, reducing the likelihood of disputes or legal complications down the line.

In contrast, joint Wills can present challenges, especially if circumstances change or if one partner passes away before the other. Revoking or amending joint Wills can be complex and may require the consent of both parties, potentially limiting the flexibility of the surviving spouse.

Overall, while joint Wills may seem appealing for their simplicity, the benefits of separate Wills far outweigh the perceived convenience. By opting for separate Wills, individuals can ensure greater control, clarity, and flexibility over the distribution of their estate, ultimately providing peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones.

Read more: Joint Will Or Individual Will: Which Is The Right Option For You?

8. Besides your Will, there are other estate planning documents that you should be aware of

While your Will is a vital component of your estate plan, it's just one piece of the puzzle. To ensure comprehensive protection of your interests, there are several other essential estate planning documents that deserve your attention.

Living Will

Often mistaken for traditional Wills, living Wills serve a different purpose altogether. Also known as Advance Medical Directives, these documents outline your preferences for medical treatment in case you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes. By clearly stating your healthcare preferences in advance, you relieve your loved ones of the burden of making difficult decisions during stressful times.

Gift Deeds

Gift Deeds are legal documents used to transfer ownership of property or assets from one individual to another as a gift during the lifetime of the parties. Whether you're gifting property to family members, friends, or charitable organisations, a properly executed Gift Deed can facilitate the transfer seamlessly while minimising tax implications and legal complexities.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that grants another person the authority to act on your behalf in legal, financial, or healthcare matters. There are different types of POAs, including general and limited, each serving specific purposes.

By designating a trusted individual as your attorney-in-fact, you ensure that someone can make important decisions on your behalf if you are unavailable for any specific reason.


A Trust is a legal arrangement established by an individual, known as the settlor, who places property or assets under the control of another party, the Trustee, for the benefit of a third party, referred to as the Beneficiary.

This arrangement creates a fiduciary relationship, wherein the Trustee is entrusted with the responsibility of managing and safeguarding the Trust assets for the Beneficiaries. In India, Trusts are utilised for a variety of purposes, including asset protection, family wealth transfer and management, and tax planning.

They offer an effective means of securing assets, providing financial support to Beneficiaries, typically family members, and orchestrating the transfer of wealth in a legally structured and regulated manner. Types of Trusts include private Trusts and charitable Trusts.

Read more about Trusts here: What Is A Trust? An Explanation Of Trusts In India

Contrary to popular belief, Witnesses are not required to know the contents of your Will. Their role is solely to witness the Testator's signature and confirm the document's authenticity, not to review or understand its contents.

9. Witnesses don't need to know the contents of your Will

For the entire Will to be valid, it must be properly prepared and executed with the presence of at least two Witnesses, ensuring that it is legally binding. This is also helpful when a Will is required to be probated and the Witnesses play an important role in the Will being upheld during the probate process. Contrary to popular belief, Witnesses are not required to know the contents of your Will. Their role is solely to witness the Testator's signature and confirm the document's authenticity, not to review or understand its contents.

This misconception often leads to unnecessary concern or hesitation when selecting Witnesses. In reality, Witnesses can be anyone who is not a Beneficiary or closely related to one. Friends, neighbours, or colleagues can fulfill this role without needing insight into the specifics of your Will.

Understanding this crucial distinction sheds light on the importance of Witnesses in validating the authenticity of your Will, while preserving the confidentiality of its contents. So, when it comes time to execute your Will, rest assured that your chosen Witnesses can play their part without prying into your personal affairs.

It's also important to note that subsequent drafts of your Will that need to be executed again can have different Witnesses. This flexibility ensures that you can update and amend your original Will, as needed, even if the original Witnesses are unavailable or no longer suitable.

10. Even the mentally compromised can craft a valid Will

The validity of a Will hinges on the Testator's mental capacity to comprehend the implications of their decisions and execute the document without undue influence. It's crucial to recognise that even individuals experiencing periods of mental unsoundness may still possess the capacity to create a valid Will during moments of clarity.

During these lucid intervals, the Testator is fully capable of understanding the nature of their bequests and making informed decisions regarding their estate. As such, a Will crafted during such periods, free from any external coercion or undue influence, holds legal validity and accurately reflects the Testator's own intentions.

On the contrary, a person who is mentally sound but under the influence of alcohol or substances lacks the requisite capacity to draft a valid Will. The impaired judgment and cognitive faculties resulting from intoxication compromise their ability to comprehend the implications of their decisions and execute a legally binding document effectively.

11. Registration of a Will is not mandatory, but it is a good practice

While the registration of a Will is not mandated by law, it stands as a prudent step in safeguarding your estate planning endeavours, particularly for estates that include any immovable property. Opting to register your Will offers several distinct advantages. Firstly, it provides an additional layer of assurance regarding the authenticity and validity of the document. By having your Will registered with the appropriate authorities, you create a clear record that can help prevent disputes and challenges to its legitimacy in the future.

Moreover, registered Wills often enjoy greater accessibility and recognition, facilitating smoother proceedings in probate court and expediting the distribution of assets to your intended Beneficiaries. This can alleviate the burden on your loved ones during an already emotionally challenging time, ensuring a more efficient and less contentious resolution of your estate.

Read more: Should You Register Your Will?

12. Wills are not just for the wealthy

Contrary to popular belief, Wills aren't reserved for the rich. They're essential for everyone, regardless of financial status. Wills provide clarity on asset distribution, guardianship for minors, and end-of-life preferences. Even with modest assets, a Will ensures your wishes are honoured, prevents family disputes, and offers peace of mind.

Moreover, without a Will, you may unknowingly inflict financial strain on your family. Legal formalities, such as obtaining a succession or legal heir certificate, become necessary, adding expenses and delays during an already difficult time. Additionally, the absence of a Will can lead to confusion and overlook assets, contributing to the staggering amount of unclaimed assets in India—over Rs 1.5 lakh crore worth! By creating a Will and including an up-to-date asset register, you provide your family with a clear roadmap of your assets, ensuring they aren't left unaware or burdened with unnecessary legal hurdles after you're gone.

Contrary to popular belief, Wills aren't reserved for the rich. They're essential for everyone, regardless of financial status.

The Bottom Line

Understanding the intricacies of Wills and estate planning is crucial for every individual, regardless of wealth or status. By dispelling common misconceptions and shedding light on the nuances of Will drafting, we've highlighted the importance of taking proactive steps to safeguard your legacy and protect your loved ones' future.

However, navigating the complexities of Will drafting and estate planning can be daunting, which is where Yellow comes in. With Yellow, creating a legally robust Will is simpler and more accessible than ever before. Our user-friendly platform, developed by legal experts with decades of experience, empowers you to draft, update, and register your Will with ease, all from the comfort of your own home.


Team Yellow


min read
March 20, 2024



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