Over the past decade, there has been a renaissance of private trusts which act as holding entities for private family wealth or provide employee benefits. More recently, their use has extended to business and investment vehicles. Many of these trusts hold immense wealth for the ultimate benefit of family members, employees or investors. As a result, enormous responsibility is reposed on the trustees. This responsibility is accompanied by a host of legal duties, of which potential trustees should be mindful.
Family settlements and the documents relating thereto have been the subject of litigation for various reasons. One such litigious issue is whether the documents pertaining to family settlements must be registered under the Registration Act. In a recent case, the Supreme Court held that a memorandum of family settlement, which merely records the terms of a family settlement already acted on by the concerned parties, need not be registered.
The complex nature of estate and succession planning requires the careful assessment of myriad factors. However, when determining the costs associated with planning, an often-overlooked factor is the court fees which may be payable when a succession plan is set into motion. If these are not evaluated at the outset, court fees might come as a shock to heirs seeking to implement the succession plan of a deceased family member.
The judiciary continues to take progressive steps towards making succession law more women friendly. In a recent landmark decision, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that daughters and sons have equal coparcenary rights in a Hindu undivided family. The decision clarifies that coparcenary rights are acquired by daughters on their birth and that fathers need not have been alive when the 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession Act was passed.
The Supreme Court recently discussed at length certain key factors that may constitute suspicious circumstances and render a will invalid. The court found that several circumstances surrounding the will's execution were suspicious in nature and concluded that while the existence of one such circumstance would not generally lead to a conclusion of suspicious circumstances, when taken holistically, it was beyond doubt that suspicious circumstances existed.