How a will can secure your legacy, and your family's inheritance

A properly drafted Will will not only secure your legacy, but also protect your loved ones. (iStockphoto)
A properly drafted Will will not only secure your legacy, but also protect your loved ones. (iStockphoto)


A nominee is like a custodian till the court orders how to divide assets. It is the duty of nominee to split the sum.

Ramu was engrossed in a Netflix show, sprawled on his couch, when an unexpected interruption shattered the tranquillity. The phone rang and jolted him out of his leisurely state. What awaited him on the other end of the line was a message he had never expected. “This is Santosh Uncle," a sombre voice conveyed, immediately capturing Ramu’s attention.

“I received news that your parents were involved in an accident, and they have been admitted to a nearby hospital. I will come to pick you up. We have to go there immediately." On arriving at the hospital, Ramu’s worst fears came true before his eyes. The doctor in charge delivered the devastating news: his parents had tragically succumbed to excessive bleeding in the emergency room. The suddenness of the event left him numb, unable to fathom the unforeseen and heart-wrenching loss.

A month later, after traditional rituals were carried out, it was time for him to come back to senses to sort out the family’s finances. As the elder brother, he had the added responsibility of finding out about all the assets owned by his family and figuring out a way to divide them fairly among his siblings.

Realizing that his parents had not left behind a Will, Ramu was at his wits end. Santosh, a lawyer by profession, came to his rescue and guide him through the inheritance process. However, everyone does not have an uncle who could offer the right advice. Note, a Will is a written document that allows individuals to specify how their inheritance will be divided after their demise. It can also be in the form of a video recording. Without a proper will, sorting money matters would not be a cakewalk for anyone.

Finding assets

Ramu did not have much idea about his parents’ wealth nor was money part of their dinner conversation. Somehow, Ramu knew that his dad had an account with State Bank of India SBI and HDFC Bank, while his mom just had one SBI account. So, he went to the respective SBI and HDFC Bank branches, only to realize that he was a nominee in each of those accounts, and tried to initiate the process of gaining operational rights.

Ramu called up his uncle, who told him that as a nominee, he may have access to his parent’s account but it doesn’t mean he can inherit those assets.


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“A nominee is like a custodian till the court orders you how to divide those assets. It is the duty of the nominee to split the sum according to law. If the nominee tries to run away with the money, the court can direct him to bring back the money."

Santosh also recalled that his brother had bought some shares of Reliance when he started his job. That would be a fortune in today’s time. Sadly, Ramu couldn’t find those share certificates at home. He also couldn’t ascertain what all assets his parent’s owned apart from those he already knew or whose documents were there at his disposal.

Santosh said it is always advisable to create a well-drafted Will with the help of a lawyer to ensure all details about the assets are well documented.

Transferring assets

After finding the documents related to the assets of his parents, Ramu had to initiate the process of transferring them to his and his brother’s names.

His uncle said that in absence of a Will, the bank balances and properties are divided as per the personal law. “Since your family follows Hinduism, your assets will be divided according to Hindu succession law. That means you will get an equal share of the assets."

Santosh then advised the brothers to get a succession certificate from a court before transferring the properties in their names. “Good news is that nobody is contesting, so in 3-5 months you will get a succession certificate which you can then show to transfer legally. I’ve had clients who have not gotten possession of the parent’s property since the 1990s. You know how Indian courts work, right?" Santosh quipped.

On enquiring about the charges, Santosh said: “It depends. Every state has different charges and since your Uncle works in Karnataka, I will have to check with a friend to arrive at the exact amount. Apart from that, we would also need a lawyer for our case." On a visit a few months later, Santosh told Ramu that if his parents had prepared a Will, the process would have been simpler as the Will just had to be executed. This is true for all states barring former ‘Presidency Towns’ such as Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata where one may still need to get a court order for the asset transfer.

(This is a hypothetical story)

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