India: ‘Show Me The Money!': What Do You Do With Bank Accounts When Your Loved One Dies?

Last Updated: 31 August 2017
Article by Rishabh Shroff

People die. That is something beyond our control. But what we can master is our succession planning. One challenge that family members face after the demise of their loved one is the recovery of their property from banks – what is rightfully theirs (hopefully). The deceased family member would inevitably have opened various bank accounts and have at least some basic financial assets. Although succession to these should be straightforward, in many cases heirs are forced to run from pillar to post to seek what is rightfully theirs.

Although these difficulties are faced by practically every family, few people organise their estate in a manner that facilitates smooth succession and inheritance. In this article, therefore, we discuss the process for recovery of monies from banks after the demise of an individual account holder, and suggest some practical means by which the process may be smoothened.

Sole Account

Where a bank account is opened in a single individual's name, and a nomination is recorded, the process is straightforward and the bank will pay the balance outstanding in the account of the deceased depositor to the nominee.

If no nomination is recorded, the bank will pay the money to the heirs only upon production of necessary documentation, depending on the amount of the balance in the account. In this regard, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has permitted banks to fix (keeping in view their risk management systems) a minimum account balance threshold up to which claims can be settled through a simple mechanism, without insisting on production of any documentation other than a letter of indemnity.

If, however, the amount in the account exceeds the said limit (set differently by each bank), banks inevitably ask the heirs to produce onerous levels of legal documentation from the Court, such as a Grant of Probate (Probate), Letters of Administration, or a Succession Certificate to satisfy themselves of the veracity of the heirs' claims.

Joint Account

It is common for joint accounts to be opened with a 'survivorship clause' ('either or survivor', 'anyone or survivor', 'former or survivor' or 'latter or survivor'). In such cases, upon an account holder's demise, the balance in the account would be paid to the survivor. In case there is no survivorship clause and one of the account holders passes away, then the banks would pay the amounts to jointly the surviving holder and the legal heirs of the deceased person.

In either case, if all holders have passed away, then payment will be made to the nominee or if no nominee is recorded, then to the heirs of the last deceased account holder.

The RBI has advised banks that if payment is to be made to a survivor/nominee as above, then, so long as the bank has exercised due care and caution, through appropriate documentary evidence, and there is no adverse Court order, the bank should desist from insisting on production of legal documentation. If, however, the payment is to be made to the heirs, the bank may demand production of such documentation (and they frequently do so, much to the despair of heirs).

Role of Survivor/Nominee

A key aspect that is often confused is the role of the survivor/nominee after s/he has received the monies as above. As discussed in one of our earlier Blog posts, nominations are made with a view to ensure that the estate or any other subject matter is protected till the legal representatives of the deceased take appropriate steps, and also to give the banks a valid discharge.

A nominee, thus, does not become the owner of such money but holds it as a 'trustee' for the legal heirs of the deceased person. Similarly, in the case of a joint account, if a survivor receives monies, he holds them as 'trustee' for the heirs of that holder (who may include the survivor), unless the survivor proves to the court that the deceased holder intended that the monies be gifted to the survivor (and not be held by him as trustee).

Who are the heirs legally entitled to the assets? If the deceased has left a valid Will behind, then the beneficiary named under the Will would be the rightful heir. If the deceased has died intestate (without a Will), then the heirs would be determined in accordance with the personal law applicable to the deceased (e.g., Hindu Succession Act, 1956, for Hindus).

Do bear in mind that an important exception to the above rule is in the case of life insurance proceeds when the nominee is any of the deceased's family members such as parents, spouse, or children. In this case, such family members are beneficially entitled to the life insurance proceeds, to the exclusion of all others, including other heirs.

What should you do?

It is vital that every individual who cares about their family's wellbeing after their lifetime, ensures that clear instructions in respect of the operation of bank accounts and nomination upon his/her demise are provided to the banks and other institutions to ensure a smooth transition of monies to the heirs.

In the absence of these, families could very well be forced to obtain documents from the Court, e.g. Probate. Unfortunately, even in situations where there is no dispute regarding the deceased's assets, Court documents require reasonable time, effort and resources to obtain. This could be avoided by the account holder simply recording a nomination.

For instance, in the recent case of Amol Patil vs. The Manager, Canara Bank & Anr. (2017)1, the petitioner, who was entitled to the balances in his deceased grandmother's bank accounts under her registered Will, sought to argue that he should be allowed to withdraw money from these accounts through a simplified process, and without production of a Court document. However, the Bombay High Court rejected his argument as he was not a nominee. As a result, the petitioner ultimately had to spend considerable time and resources in obtaining a Court document for his monies. His grandmother would not have intended this, and could have avoided it simply by making him a nominee.

In conclusion, everyone should at least ensure that a nomination is recorded in respect of their bank accounts. Without this safeguard in place, the deceased will hopefully rest in peace, but his/her heirs might very well lose their peace of mind in trying to recover monies rightfully due to them.


[1] Order dated April 20th, 2017 in Writ Petition no. 12350 of 2015

* The author was assisted by Shaishavi Kadakia, Senior Associate

Originally published July 5, 2017

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.