It’s no small task to take the taboo out of planning for one’s death and encouraging and educating people to have an open dialogue with their families about this difficult subject. But that is exactly what Rajeev Aurangabadkar is trying to achieve with his recently launched online portal, giftmylegacy.com. We caught up with him to learn more about this interesting concept. Here’s what he had to say.
You’ve come up with a first-its-kind concept in India. What is the idea behind your initiative?
After spending more than a decade working in India, I was pursuing my executive MBA at UCLA, and that is when the idea came to me: What is it that we can do to help people in general? Due to a personal tragedy I had gone through, I realised there is no help anywhere in India to allow or enable people to plan their legacy. People in India plan everything–when they are going to get married, when they will have children, their education etc. However, should something happen to that person, the family is left searching for all the information that they need. In today’s generation, when both partners are often working, it becomes difficult to keep track of who’s invested in what, where the papers are, and how to have easy access to them. With things booming in India now – especially property – no one wants to let go of anything. So I thought it’s a compelling reason to start something on the digital platform that can help people plan their lives better. The goal is to plan while you’re alive, so that after your death your family continues their life the way you would want it to be, without unnecessary conflicts or issues.
In India, the concept of planning a will is foreign, but abroad it’s very different. How are you tackling that?
The most important aspect is educating the audience and building awareness about legacy planning. It’s a fallacy that people think they are going to live forever. I read a fabulous quote about how we are so optimistic and positive, and set an alarm every night, certain that we are going to wake up the next day. But it may never happen. With changes in lifestyles today and stress in everyone’s lives, I want to educate people that it’s better to be planned and organised.
It is estimated that 80-85% of people in India don’t have a will. Why do you think this is the case?
It has a lot to do with our culture. Traditionally, we have been brought up in a society where talking about death is a taboo. Planning for death takes a lot of courage, and when people do it, it is on the sly; they never sit with their family and discuss it. This is a stigma we need to get rid of. New generations are making changes; people want to know what’s there for them and are more open to talking to their parents. Everything is great when the parents are around. Thunder strikes only when the true value of an investment or asset comes out after the head of the family’s death.
What are some tips you would give the younger generation with regards to inheritances and wills?
It’s important that you start having a dialogue within your family as early as possible, and talk about everything in an open and transparent manner. Having this discussion in a mature manner can go a long way.
The website has an interesting and touching feature called ‘goodbye messages’. What is the idea behind this?
There are times when people wanted to share a message with a loved one, but for whatever reason weren’t able to do it during their lifetime. We allow people to leave a text, audio or video message, and after the person’s demise, we will have the information shared with the respective person. It means a lot to people when the person leaves this personalised message.
Although legacy is primarily associated with money and property, there is a lot more to it, wouldn’t you agree?
Yes, absolutely. When people talk about legacy, everyone talks about money. What most people fail to understand is that there are so many other things that can be passed on as legacy: art, music, old movies collected over the years, musical instruments, stamp collections, etc. Things that had meaning to you, which you would like your children to also understand and appreciate, are also part of one’s legacy. And these deserve some attention as well. --- as told to Suneela