Types of Wills in India for Foreign Nationals A Comprehensive Guide

Different Types of Wills in India for Foreign Nationals


Can a foreign national make a will in India? The legal framework of India allows not only its citizens but also foreign nationals and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to create wills that dictate the distribution of their property located in India. This aspect of Indian law ensures that individuals from diverse backgrounds can exercise control over their assets within the country, promoting a straightforward process of estate planning. Understanding the types of wills in India for foreigners is crucial for ensuring that these wills are accurately reflected and legally upheld.

For NRIs and foreign nationals considering drafting a will in India, several options are available. Among the types of wills in India for NRIs are the Privileged and Unprivileged Wills, each serving different circumstances and offering unique provisions based on one’s occupation and residency status. By familiarizing themselves with these options, foreign nationals and NRIs can effectively navigate the Indian legal system to secure their estate and provide for their heirs according to their specific desires.


What is a Will and Why is it Important?


A Will is a legal document through which a person, known as the testator, expresses their wishes regarding the distribution of their property and assets after their death. A will allows individuals to dictate how their estate will be divided among their beneficiaries, ensuring that their assets are distributed according to their wishes. It provides clarity and guidance for family members and beneficiaries, minimizing potential conflicts and disputes over inheritance. 

Foreign nationals may need to know about the types of wills in India to understand the ownership of their assets in India. Special considerations are taken into account by Indian Will laws for those who live abroad yet possess assets in India. These provisions accommodate the unique circumstances of NRIs, such as their ability to draft a will abroad that governs their Indian assets, provided it complies with the legal requirements of both India and their country of residence. Understanding the Indian Succession Act, 1925 is important for ensuring that their assets are distributed according to their wishes after their passing. This will not only minimize inheritance disputes but also help navigate cross-border estate planning effectively.


Implications for Foreign Nationals


When foreign nationals and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) create a will in India, they must consider various legal implications to ensure their will is valid and enforceable. Here are the key points, with detailed considerations:

Compliance with Indian Laws:

The will must be written and signed by the testator. It requires the presence of at least two witnesses who must be present simultaneously during the signing of the will.

These requirements are in accordance with Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act, which outlines the execution of wills.

International Compliance:

For NRIs and foreign nationals drafting a will outside India, the will must comply with the legal standards of both India and the country where the will is executed.

This ensures the will is recognized and enforceable in both jurisdictions, avoiding potential legal conflicts.

Property Jurisdiction:

The will should clearly specify which assets are in India and subject to Indian law. Foreign assets may be governed by the laws of the country in which they are located, and separate provisions might be needed.

Tax Considerations:

NRIs and foreign nationals should be aware of the estate and inheritance tax implications in India and their home country. Consulting with tax professionals who understand both Indian and international tax laws is crucial to avoid double taxation.

Language and Clarity:

The will should be drafted in a language that is clearly understood by all parties involved to avoid misinterpretation. If the will is not written in English, an official translation might be required for legal proceedings in India.

Legal Representation:

It is advisable for NRIs and foreign nationals to engage with legal experts or solicitors who specialize in cross-border estate planning. Legal experts can provide guidance on the nuances of Indian and international succession laws.


Types of Wills Recognized in India


In India, several types of wills are recognized that can accommodate the needs of foreign nationals and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). Here’s a detailed look at some most common types of wills that are applicable:


Unprivileged Will

An Unprivileged Will is the standard form of will recognized and utilized widely across India by both residents and non-residents, including foreign nationals and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). This type of will is governed by the provisions outlined in Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act.

An Unprivileged Will is defined as a will that is made by any person who is not entitled to make a privileged will (such as military personnel). According to Section 63 of the Indian Succession Act, an Unprivileged Will must meet the following criteria to be considered valid:

  • It must be in writing: The will should be written down; it can be handwritten, typed or printed.
  • Signature: The testator must sign or affix their mark to the will, or it must be signed by some other person in the testator’s presence and by their direction. This is to ensure that the document truly represents the testator’s intentions.
  • Witnesses: The signature of the testator must be made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of at least two witnesses, who are present at the same time. These witnesses must then sign the will in the presence of the testator. It’s crucial that the witnesses are not beneficiaries under the will to avoid conflicts of interest.

Unprivileged Wills and their legal requirements are relevant not only to Indian residents but also to foreign individuals who own assets in India. Foreign nationals owning property in India can create unprivileged Wills to ensure the orderly distribution of their assets according to their wishes.


Privileged Will

A Privileged Will in India, often referred to as a Military Will or a Soldier’s Will, holds significant legal importance for individuals actively involved in military service, including soldiers, airmen, or mariners. A Privileged Will in India is specifically designed for certain individuals, primarily those serving in the armed forces, who may be on active duty, in an actual state of warfare or in a similar emergency condition where meeting the formal requirements of an Unprivileged Will may be impractical. 

A Privileged Will is outlined in Section 66 of the Indian Succession Act. The law states that any soldier being employed in an expedition or engaged in actual warfare, or an airman so employed or engaged, or any mariner at sea, may dispose of his property by a privileged will. This type of will does not require the standard formalities of being in writing or signed in the presence of witnesses, thus accommodating the exigencies of military and similar services. This flexibility ensures that service members can quickly and effectively arrange for the disposition of their estates, even under circumstances where formal legal procedures are unfeasible. Importantly, this provision extends to mariners and seamen as well, reflecting the unpredictable and often urgent conditions under which they might need to make a will.

Key Conditions for Privileged Wills in India:

  • The testator may write the entire Will by hand, eliminating the need for signature or attestation.
  • If the Will is written wholly or partially by another person, the testator must sign it. In such cases, there is no requirement for attestation.
  • If the Will is written by another person and not signed by the testator, it can still be valid if it is proved to have been written at the testator’s direction or if the testator recognized it as their Will.
  • A half-completed privileged Will is also considered valid if it is proved that non-execution was due to some other reason and does not appear to be an abandonment of intentions to create a Will.


Conditional or Contingent Will

A Conditional or Contingent Will in India is a type of will whose validity or effectiveness depends upon the occurrence of a specified condition or event, which must be fulfilled for the provisions of the will to take effect. In essence, the validity and execution of the Will hinge upon the fulfillment of these predetermined events. If the specified condition fails to materialize, the Will may become invalid, and its provisions may not be implemented.

A Conditional Will in India as discussed in the context of the Indian Succession Act, specifies that a will or any part thereof becomes void if it is conditional upon an event happening and the event happens in such a way that the testator intended not to occur. Thus, the legality of the will depends on the occurrence or non-occurrence of a stipulated event or condition, making it crucial that such stipulations are well-considered and precisely defined to avoid legal disputes or the will being declared void.

Business owners often use Conditional Wills in India to plan for the succession of their business interests. For example, a business owner may stipulate in their Will that ownership of the company will transfer to a designated heir only if that heir meets specific qualifications or demonstrates a certain level of competency to manage the business effectively.


Joint Will

A Joint Will in India is a testamentary document created by two or more individuals who agree to make a single, combined Will that governs the distribution of their assets upon their deaths. Typically, Joint Wills in India are utilized by married couples or business partners who wish to coordinate their estate planning efforts and ensure unified testamentary intentions.

While Joint Wills are not explicitly detailed in the Indian Succession Act, they are recognized and can be legally enforced. The legal system treats each signatory’s testamentary declarations within the Joint Will as separate, albeit contained in the same document. This means that each portion of the will corresponding to a specific testator is considered independently in probate upon their death. It’s crucial for parties creating a Joint Will to understand that such documents can lead to complications in altering the will’s terms after one testator’s death, requiring careful consideration and potentially, legal advice before opting for this type of will.

In the context of married couples, Joint Wills offer a convenient means of expressing shared testamentary wishes and coordinating the distribution of their joint assets. These wills often stipulate that upon the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse will inherit the entirety of the estate, on the other hand For business partners, Joint Wills serve as a mechanism for ensuring continuity and succession within the business. Joint Wills may outline provisions for the transfer of ownership interests or business assets to the surviving partner(s) in the event of the death of one or more partners, thereby facilitating the seamless transition of the business operations.




Understanding the various types of Wills in India for foreigners is paramount, ensuring effective estate planning and asset distribution according to their wishes. Knowledge of Indian succession laws and the nuances of different types of Wills in India for foreigners empowers them to protect their assets, minimize disputes among beneficiaries and ensure legal compliance. To navigate the complexities of Indian succession laws, foreign nationals should engage with local attorneys or legal experts for personalized guidance.

By seeking professional assistance, they can create a Will that meets their unique needs and complies with Indian legal requirements. A Agarwalla’s expertise in estate planning and succession matters can provide personalized advice tailored to individual circumstances. By consulting A Agarwalla, foreign nationals can ensure that their estate planning objectives are met effectively providing peace of mind for themselves.

Frequently Asked Questions


1. What are the different types of Wills in India for foreigners?

Following are different  types of Wills in India for foreigners:

  • Privileged Wills
  • Unprivileged Wills
  • Joint Wills
  • Conditional Wills
  • Mutual Wills
  • Concurrent Wills
  • Duplicate Wills


2. What is the definition of a Will in India?

A Will in India is a legal document that allows individuals to express their wishes regarding the distribution of their assets and belongings after their death. It provides instructions for the transfer of property, finances and other assets to chosen beneficiaries, ensuring that the testator’s intentions are carried out according to the law.


3. What is a privileged Will in India, and how does it differ from other types of Wills?

A privileged Will in India is a type of Will specifically designed for individuals engaged in military service, such as soldiers, airmen or mariners. It offers streamlined provisions to accommodate the unique circumstances of military life, allowing service members to create Wills quickly and with reduced formalities. Privileged Wills may differ from other types of Wills in terms of execution requirements and legal recognition, catering specifically to the needs of military personnel.


4. Why is understanding Indian succession laws important for foreign nationals?

Understanding Indian succession laws holds paramount importance for foreign nationals. It ensures that their estate planning efforts are legally valid and compliant with Indian regulations, minimizing the risk of disputes or challenges. Familiarity with Indian succession laws enables foreign nationals to protect their assets effectively, ensuring that their distribution aligns with their wishes. 


5. How can foreign nationals ensure the validity of their Wills in India?

To ensure the validity of their Wills in India, foreign nationals should familiarize themselves with the legal requirements for Will creation and execution in the country. Consulting with experienced legal professionals, such as lawyers specializing in Indian succession laws, can provide valuable guidance and ensure compliance with relevant regulations. 


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