COVID-19: 5 Legal & Financial Steps To Prepare For When A Loved One Passes Away

COVID-19: 5 Legal & Financial Steps To Prepare For When A Loved One Passes Away
The Financial Times

Death is never easy. Bereavement is never a linear process, where you are devastated by the loss of a loved one, one moment and then suddenly the next day you are not. It is slow and complicated; good days are followed by bad days, which are again followed by days when you feel downright devastated. So it’s a process and one that is sinuous and unpromising. However, bereavement is not just a solitary process, but a social process, where one needs to take care of a lot of other formalities like obtaining a death certificate, locating financial documents, bank deposits, taking stock of immovable assets etc., that had so far been under the name of the deceased.

If you have lost someone close to you in recent days and don’t know what are the subsequent steps that you should be taking, here’s a guide which you can refer to:

I. Get multiple copies of the death certificate

If the parent passes away at the hospital, you will have to fill a form with details like the deceased’s name, age, father or mother’s name, address, etc. This is forwarded to the registration centre/zonal office of the local municipal body, from where the death certificate is issued at the specified time. For multiple copies, download these from the municipal website. Make sure these details are exactly the same as in your parent’s official records like the Aadhaar or PAN card. A spelling mistake or a name written with initials instead of the full name can cause problems.

II. Finances

Locate the will if there is one, since it clearly defines how all assets are to be distributed, thereby minimising disputes among family members. With regard to movable assets like bank deposits or investments, it always helps when nominees are mentioned. The death certificate of the deceased and the nominee’s identity proof (like Aadhaar and PAN card) can be used to transfer the movable assets. However, in all accounts that contain movable property, the will overrides the nomination (barring demat accounts). Keerit Shah, Senior Lawyer & Partner, Dhru & Co says, “nominees don’t have legal rights and are only representatives of legal heirs.”

If there is neither a will nor a nominee, immovable property (like real estate) is divided as per the religion or country’s law, among all legal heirs. Lawyer Keerit Shah says, “If the children do not want a share in it and want to transfer it in their mother’s or father’s name, they will have to sign a release deed, surrendering their share in property.” In case of movable assets, you will need a succession certificate, which can only be obtained from a district court.

III. Locate all Financial Documents

According to Sunder, “To make it easier, you can divide the documents into four buckets: assets, liabilities, expenses and income.” These will include bank-related papers (savings accounts/deposits, ATM cards, credit cards), insurance (life, health, motor vehicle), investments (insurance, stocks and mutual funds, savings schemes like Senior Citizen Savings Scheme or NSCs, and fixed deposits), utility bills and account numbers (electricity, water, gas, phone, Internet), taxation, property papers, loan and EMI documents, clubs and other memberships, among others. Employment documents should also be availed and the insurance and other benefits should be claimed from the employer that your family member worked for.

IV. Dues & Liabilities

Take note of dues and liabilities including typical expenses like electricity, water, gas and phone bills, as well as credit card dues, insurance premiums, mutual fund SIPs, loan EMIs etc. Joint bank accounts come handy here, since you can keep using the account to make crucial payments. The next step is to inform all financial institutions (including banks, insurers, companies where investments have been made, tax department, and utility bodies) of the demise. Intimating these organisations is important so that you can shift from a joint to single account, or have the name changed. Find out the procedure to do each of these from the respective institutions. For vehicle transfers in case of death of the owner, check with the website of the transport department of the respective state. The income tax return has to be filed by you as a legal representative for the financial year in which the demise took place and till the date he/she was alive, according to Sudhir Kaushik, Director,

V. Protect their identity

Don’t forget to protect your parent’s identity by erasing important documents and online presence of your parent.

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