Indian Law is very clear on the essential elements of a valid Will. These include the testator's ability to execute a Will, clarity of testamentary inheritance, and testamentary witnesses. In some cases, however, a Will can be challenged because its execution is surrounded by suspicious circumstances. The Kavita Kanwar case is a useful indicator of the aspects taken into account by the courts when deciding on the validity of such a will.
The Kavita Kanwar case
The Supreme Court analyzed the validity of Mrs. Amarjeet Mamik’s Will. According to the will, Kavita Kanwar was not only the main beneficiary but also her executor. While Pamela Mehta, Testatrix's widowed daughter and chief carer, who lived with her daughter on the first floor of Testatrix's home, received no significant legacy. In addition, Testatrix's son, who kept aloof from Testatrix due to his engagement to the Indian Army but was on good terms with her, only received the balance of Testatrix's bank account, which amounted to about Rs 5.76 lakh
The Court ordered to prove the validity of a Will that could act as satisfactory evidence proving:
- if the Will is signed by the testator,
- the testator at the given time was in a sound mind,
- the testator has understood the nature and effect of the Provisions,
- the testator has signed the document of his own free will without any coercion or undue influence.
Concerning the will in question, the Supreme Court found several circumstances relating to the will that were suspicious, such as:
- Kavita Kanwar was the main beneficiary and played an active role in the execution of the will, which she tried to hide from the court.
- There was no plausible reason for not involving the other children of the testatrix in the process of executorship and most of the inheritance.
- The manner of drafting and issuing the will in technical and legal terms was very dubious.
- Existence of an alleged additional page of the will.
- Contradictory statements from witnesses.
- The legacy under the will was illusory and void.
- There was no evidence that the testatrix understood the contents of the will.
Given this, the Supreme Court concluded that the existence of any of the above circumstances would not generally lead the court to conclude that the will is surrounded by suspicious circumstances. However, when viewed holistically, there is no doubt that the circumstances surrounding the will are suspicious.
Find out Factors to consider to make sure that ‘your Will’ does not get contested in court in Part II of “Proving of Wills in Suspicious Circumstances” series. AasaanWill. Zaroori Hai!