Estate Planning: No heirs? Ways to plan who will inherit your wealth



By Vishnu Chundi

Estate planning involves deliberating over your assets, and making decisions that ensure your wealth goes to the right people after your death. At the heart of estate planning are two key players – the executor and the beneficiaries.

The executor

An executor plays a central role in managing the estate posthumously. He or she is tasked with administering the deceased’s will, paying debts, and distributing their assets to the beneficiaries. However, what happens when there’s no one suitable to entrust this duty to?

If you fail to appoint an executor, the court steps in to fill the void, appointing a public or professional executor. While this guarantees an executor, it also comes with its set of challenges. For one, the court-appointed executor may lack personal insight into the deceased’s wishes and the dynamics of their beneficiaries. Additionally, the court process can be prolonged, delaying the settlement of the estate.

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You can also seek professional help for this. For instance, attorneys specialising in estate planning could provide assistance or serve as executors themselves. Alternatively, you can consider a professional or corporate executor, such as a bank or a trust company. Professional fiduciary services can also be an option, providing experienced, unbiased management of your estate.

The beneficiaries

Now, onto the beneficiaries — the individuals or entities that inherit the wealth. Without named beneficiaries, your assets could be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws, which might not mirror the deceased’s wishes. In India, intestacy laws (or laws of succession) dictate asset distribution when a person dies without a will. Without designated beneficiaries, assets could potentially go to distant relatives or, in the absence of any, the state, depending on differing laws based on the deceased’s religion.

But what if you don’t have immediate family or close friends to be beneficiaries? In such a scenario, you can consider bequeathing to a charitable institution.By designating them as beneficiaries, you can ensure that your wealth aids a cause they support. Alternatively, establishing a trust and naming it as the beneficiary can provide a certain degree of control over how assets are used after your demise.

The intricacies of estate planning call for expert guidance. An estate planning attorney can provide personalised advice tailored to your unique situation, helping them make informed decisions. They can provide insight into potential executors, beneficiaries, and legal implications, ensuring your wishes are met and your legacy endures.

The key lies in being proactive in estate planning to avoid unnecessary complications. Through diligent planning and expert guidance, your estate can be well-managed, ensuring your legacy lives on.

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* Establishing a trust and naming it as the beneficiary can provide a certain degree of control over how assets are used after one’s demise

* In India, laws of succession dictate asset distribution when one dies without a will

The writer is founder and CEO, AasaanWill


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