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Lost loved ones to COVID-19? Here’s how you can track their assets and investments

Checking bank account entries, mutual fund and insurance statements of the deceased can give an idea of their assets and liabilities

May 04, 2021 / 03:17 PM IST

The second wave of COVID-19 has turned out to be deadlier and far more widespread. It’s bad enough to lose a loved one suddenly. But it’s worse when the surviving family members have no clue of the finances that the deceased person handle. Especially, if she or he was the breadwinner. If the departed leaves a Will behind, it’s possible to pick up the pieces.

But how do you go about searching for assets left behind when there is no Will? That’s a maze nobody wants to get into. But experts say there is a way to track the money and investments left behind. As you are the heir, the money belongs to you. It will help you to sustain yourself and your family.

Bank accounts can offer many cues

These days, most of us have direct bank credits of dividends, debenture/ bonds and FD interest payments and so on. Systematic Investment plans(SIPs) and withdrawals are also made directly out of your bank accounts. A close scan of your loved one’s bank accounts can give you vital clues on fund movements.

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Equated monthly instalments (EMIs) paid, insurance premiums and so on would also be known. Go through the last three years’ bank statements; this is a reasonable time frame to uncover significant information.

Maintain email, mobile phone and other details

The departed person’s email can also give you vital clues. Check for any Consolidated account statements (CAS) sent by the National Securities Depositories Ltd (NSDL) or Central depositories Securities Ltd (CDSL).

Keep the deceased’s mobile phone activated for a few months to even a couple of years. Insurance companies, mutual funds, banks would keep sending alerts.

Maintain the documents carefully. Many of us tend to throw away papers considering them to be trash. Especially, in times where there is need to sanitize homes post COVID-19. “Many old paper correspondences may still come of utility. Say, a reminder for KYC (Know Your Client) compliance, an old dividend warrant, share buy-back offer letter and so on,” says Rajat Dutta, Founder & Initiator, Inheritance Needs Services.

Get a succession certificate

But there are situations where the surviving heir may not be the nominee mentioned in the demat account or life insurance policy policy. Either there would be no nomination or the nominee may be no more. A succession certificate helps.

In the absence of a Will, make sure that you at least announce yourself as the legal heir. A succession certificate gives a legal standing to your claims.

As a first step, the bereaved family, which has no details of assets, needs to be empowered with a Succession Certificate. “The Succession Certificate (when there is no Will) identifies the legitimate successor or heir. This enables the family to approach banks, mutual funds, depositories for seeking details of the investments owned by the deceased person through a well-defined process,” says Dutta. The financial institution in question is bound by client confidentiality and will not share the information about their client’s assets without ascertaining the legitimacy of the designated claimant.

Insurance claims

A life insurance company can act only after a death claim is intimated to it either by the family members or the insurance agent. “However, there are instances when our executives get such information during service calls or during renewal calls. In all these cases, the claims team quickly takes over and initiates the settlement process,” says Kalpana Sampat, MD and CEO, Pramerica Life Insurance.

But Mahavir Chopra, Founder, Beshak.org, points out that the sheer scale of destruction across India that COVID19 pandemic has caused, means that relatives, guardians or agents will have to step forward to send the death intimation to the insurance company and file a claim.

How can you check if your deceased loved one had any insurance policy? Go through their mobile phone text (SMS) messages or emails to see if any premium has been paid.

Loans

Loans must be repaid to the bank. If the borrower dies during the pendency of the loan, it becomes the responsibility of the co-borrower or the person who has stood in as ‘surety’ to repay the outstanding loan. Get in touch with the lender bank/ non-bank finance firm. On default by deceased borrower, the lender would follow the process of intimation, followed by legal notice for payment and invoke the clauses of the loan agreement. In simple words, the bank can trace you down.

A few housing finance companies and non-banking finance firms insist that borrowers take a life insurance policy for self and co-borrower, for the period of the housing loan and pays an annual premium, which ensures that the maturity amount covers the loan outstanding in case of an unfortunate event.

If all this sounds too intimidating, engage with a qualified financial planner or inheritance expert professional to help you navigate through this maze.
Nikhil Walavalkar
Preeti Kulkarni is a financial journalist with over 13 years of experience. Based in Mumbai, she covers the personal finance beat for Moneycontrol. She focusses primarily on insurance, banking, taxation and financial planning
first published: May 4, 2021 10:46 am

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