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.
Despite various government initiatives and the promise of corporate social responsibility, Indian non-governmental organisations are facing a crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, like with most crises, there are also hidden opportunities. One such opportunity is the philanthropic investments of high-net-worth individuals, who could step in (directly or via their family offices or foundations) to help mitigate the funding crisis in the sector.
In India, many families are reluctant to pass their business wealth and assets onto their married daughters due to the perceived risk that the property ends up being controlled by their daughters' in-laws. This is even more pronounced for promoter families with significant holdings in listed companies. The Securities and Exchange Board of India recently issued informal guidance which dealt with a promoter gifting his shares to his married daughters and the implications under the relevant listed company regulations.
The Finance Bill 2020 was presented as the Union Finance Budget in February 2020 and was finally passed on 23 March 2020, with certain key amendments. Following the proposals in the budget, the government received feedback and representations from various stakeholders, some of which it appears to have taken into consideration in amending the bill before its passing. However, the budget's goals of wealth creation are unlikely to be fulfilled given the havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked on economic stability.
The COVID-19 flight restrictions have led to confusion among non-resident Indians with regard to their tax residency. Such individuals have effectively been stuck in India, involuntarily increasing their time in the country. This may expose their offshore business and professional income to tax in India, as it may be regarded as controlled from India and the individual may be regarded as 'resident but not ordinarily resident in India'.
The issue of legatees versus nominees is still causing confusion among the public despite numerous judicial decisions which clearly confirm that legal heirs inherit assets over nominees. In November 2019 this position was confirmed once again when the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal held that nomination does not amount to beneficial ownership of an asset and that a nominee merely holds assets on behalf of the legal heirs of the deceased.
India, like most countries, is coming to grips with COVID-19. The country is now under official lockdown, and the next few weeks will be critical in determining whether it has been able to successfully contain the virus. All individuals, not just the elderly or ill, should take the time to implement an estate plan as it will make life simpler for remaining family members if the proper steps are taken now.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently presented the Union Finance Budget 2020-21. This was the minister's second budget and it had been eagerly awaited, as the government is facing immense criticism for failing to revive the slowing Indian economy. Although the finance minister's budget speech was perceived as a nod towards the possibility of significant promoter-friendly policies being introduced, on examination, it seems to represent a missed opportunity.