COVID-19 effect: Will registration on the rise

Family of a COVID-19 victim performing the last rites at a temporary crematorium in Giddenahalli on the outskirts of Bengaluru in May 2021.   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

There is an uptick in the number of people drafting and registering a Will (a declaration of how a person wishes his or her property to be distributed after death) for both moveable and immovable properties consequent to the uncertainty arising out of the recent surge in the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed hundreds of lives.

April and May saw an increase in case fatality rate and the near collapse of the healthcare system due to a rise in COVID-19 cases as the pandemic peaked. During these two months, there was a surge in people evincing interest in leaving behind a Will.

“Will is the last thing on the mind among a majority of the people in our society. So far, only those who had vast property used to take interest. But sudden deaths in families and the uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing even middle class people to contemplate registering a Will,” said Sudheer K. Shankar, an advocate in Mysuru.

As against less than half a dozen Will registrations per year that he used to help with before the COVID-19 pandemic, inquiries and counselling on the subject has increased manifold in recent times. “The surge in inquiries increased during the peak of the second wave of COVID-19,” he added.

Among them was a software professional in his 30s who sought advise on the legal process of registering a Will. “Many senior citizens with comorbidities feared the worst and sought counselling on how best to divide the property among family members so as to ensure that property-related issues were settled amicably,” said Mr. Sudheer.

However, not all inquiries and drafts may have culminated in registration of a Will at the sub-registrar’s office as required by the law.

“But the fact that people are contemplating legal recourse underlines the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said H.V.S. Murthy, another advocate who has handled more than a dozen such inquiries in the last couple of weeks.

The issue has come to the attention of NGOs working on civic issues. Mysuru Grahakara Parishat (MGP) thought fit to conduct an awareness programme on registering a Will. It said documenting and registering a Will has attained importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was endorsed by the key speaker at the programme Prof. K.S. Suresh, former principal of JSS Law College.

He said given the uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was causing sudden deaths, it would be wise to write a Will to safeguard property and investments to prevent disputes in the family after one’s demise.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 11:24:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/covid-19-effect-will-registration-on-the-rise/article34942512.ece

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