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How family members or legal heirs can trace deceased person’s assets


Family members or legal heirs of a deceased can start by searching for any physical documents, or get in touch with their chartered accountant (CA) or tax advisor, if any. Else, they can rely on the deceased’s income tax return (ITR) or Annual Information Statement(AIS). But, for these, one needs access to that person’s mobile phone and PAN. If you do not have the PAN, is there a way out? According to Nadiya Sarguroh, principal associate, MZM Legal, LLP one way to do this could be to apply for re-issue of the deceased’s PAN card as his legal heir. “This application will most likely get rejected as there is no defined process for re-issuance of a deceased’s PAN card. If it is rejected, you could possibly reach out to the courts in a writ jurisdiction to issue a directive to the I-T authorities to re-issue the deceased’s PAN to the family members,” says Sarguroh.


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Physical documents and IDs: One can begin by searching for bank and other investment documents at home such as the deceased’s bank passbooks or cheque books, diaries with notes, or PAN card and bank locker keys—all of which can come in handy for tracing assets.

“We have seen that even people who are relatively less organized, tend to collect all their disorganized material (documents) in one place. This could be a drawer, box or shelf, the one place where they put everything,” says Vishal Dhawan, founder & CEO, Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors. Past bank statements can provide a mine of information on income, expenses and investments, including interest income from deposits and dividends from shares. Gaining access to the bank account, however, will depend on whether the claimant is a nominee or not.

CA /tax advisor: Yet another crucial source of information can be the deceased person’s CA or tax advisor. “The CA is likely to have lot more details about a person’s investments. He can give clues on bank accounts, the kind of incomes filed in the income tax return (ITR), which, in turn, can be used to trace investments made, “says, Nishant Agarwal, senior managing partner, CFP – Advisory, ASK Private Wealth.

ITR: If the deceased person was filing returns on his own, then the family members can try accessing the deceased person’s tax returns on the Income Tax (I-T) portal.

Neeraj Agarwala, partner, Nangia Andersen India says it is necessary to know the deceased person’s PAN, and have access to their mobile phone. “If the deceased person was registered on the I-T portal and filed returns, then the ITR details can be accessed from the portal by logging in with the PAN. Password can be reset on the IT portal by generating OTP sent on the mobile number linked with Aadhaar.”

AIS: According to Agarwal, the AIS can be a source of comprehensive information, though there might be some issues with the information provided since this system is still in the early stages. The AIS provides information on transactions such as property purchases, interest income from savings accounts, fixed deposits (FDs) and other investments, dividends, sale and purchase of stocks and mutual fund (MF) units, etc. For example, where it concerns property purchases, the AIS will display details such as the property address and the date and amount of payment. For interest on bank savings and FD accounts, one will be able to see the amount credited, the bank name and the account number.

MF investments: Legal heirs, secondary holders or nominees can claim these investments. The process of transferring MFs to their names is easy when the survivors have the PAN card number and folio numbers of all investments of the deceased.

But what happens if survivors don’t know about the MF investments? If survivors have access to the deceased’s email account or phone messages to access OTPs, then the process is easier and stress-free. In this case, one can generate a Consolidated Account Statement (CAS) using the email address and get details of all the MF investments linked to that email. (Go to )

In a scenario where no will exists and the survivors do not have access to the deceased’s CA, investment advisor and lawyer, the process of tracing the MF investments can take some time and effort.

The process of tracing and transferring MFs is simpler if you have access to the PAN card number, email address and phone number of the deceased, besides the death certificate and proof of relationship with the deceased.

Investments in MFs in India are handled by three RTAs – CAMS, KFintech and Franklin Templeton. Each RTA has a list of AMCs under it. So, to trace the investments you will have to approach all the RTAs. A surviving claimant must first approach the RTA with the death certificate and proof of relationship with the deceased. “We first verify the death of the investor to prevent any fraudulent claims”, explained a CAMS spokesperson. Once it is verified, the RTAs aid the surviving claimants to trace the MF holdings with the help of the PAN card, email address and personal details of the deceased.

“Sometimes the PAN card may not be linked with the investments and so we take the extra step of verifying whether any investments exist under the same name and registered address that may not be linked with the PAN or email address. Our dedicated transmission helpdesk specializes in such hand holding”, the CAMS spokesperson added.

In essence, claimantshave to visit the nearest RTA branch to begin the transmission process. There is neither a well-documented process available online nor are there any such guidelines for tracing the investments if claimants have no knowledge or access to email address and phone messages. Once the RTAs confirm the death of the investor and genuineness of claimants, they facilitate access to a list of all the investments made by the deceased and also begin the transmission process.

Stocks: To trace a deceased person’s stock holdings (held in demat form), the one crucial information you need is – which broker / bank the deceased person had a demat account with. To find out who the broker / bank is, you will need access to either the deceased’s email ID or at least the mobile phone. If you have the latter, you can sift through the SMSs to retrieve this information. Then, you will have to approach the broker / bank with the transmission request form and the relevant documents.

Alternatively, access to the deceased’s bank statements can be helpful. Any share purchase / sale transactions via a joint trading account will reflect in the linked bank account statements. Note that, while the AIS too shows the stock holdings, it does not show the depository participant’s name.

(Namrata Patel, a Sebi-Registered Investment Advisor, contributed to this story.)

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