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When Mr Das inherited a bank fixed deposit after death of his father,he didn’t know who was responsible for paying tax on the interest? He was also not sure whether to continue with the account or to invest the amount in some other saving instrument. 

The loss of a parent or a loved one is a painful incident in our lives. But along with it comes the complications of inheritance. What the inheritor needs to watch out for is a succession plan (Joint ownership,Nomination, Will),  the costs of transferring the title of the assets, and the taxes of the bequeathed  assets. We can use the information to what should we do so that our children, or those who we intend to inherit  actually inherit it with minimum legal issues(legal, tax).This article explores these questions on inheriting.

How do you inherit?

The rules of distribution of financial assets like FD (Fixed Deposits), property, mutual funds in case a person dies depends on whether person died with or without making a Will. If a person dies without a will, the law of succession applies based on the religion of the deceased. The succession is governed by complex laws of inheritance and religion as well as customs. The laws also differ for men and women. For example:

  • The property of a Hindu male dying without a will is given to nearest heirs who are categorised as Class I heirs in the Hindu Succession Act. These include sons, daughters, widow and mother, among others. If there is no nearest heir, the property is given to heirs in the next line, which includes father, grandfather, grandmother, uncles and aunts, among others.
  • The Muslim law allows an individual with heirs to distribute only one-third of his wealth through a will. The rest two-thirds of the wealth is inherited according to the religious laws
  • Under Islamic laws of inheritance under, a son normally gets twice the share of a daughter
Joint Ownership, Nomination, Will

How easily you get the financial asset depends on  Joint Ownership, Nomination and Will? Let’s understand it.

Joint Ownership: Investment can be made by an individual in his own name, single account or by two or more individuals jointly, called as joint account. There are different types of joint account relationships such as Joint, Either or Survivor, Anyone or Survivor , Former or Survivor,Latter or Survivor.

Nomination : Nomination is the process of appointing a person to take care of your assets in the event of your death. For all investments except shares, nomination does not provide ownership of your assets. The nominee will only be the custodian of the asset till it is given to its beneficiary., Though a nominee is an important person, he or she has no rights over the money or assets unless that is specified under the will or the nominee happens to inherit the money. Our article How to Nominate:Bank Account, Mutual Funds explains nomination process in detail

Will: A will is an official statement prepared by a person that describes how they want their assets to be divided among their heirs after their death. Preparing a clear will ensures that the heirs are left in no doubt about their inheritance

Our article Right Paper Work For Those You Love: Part 1,  Will: Right PaperWork For Those You Love-Part II discusses Joint ownership,Nomination,Will in detail.

What are the kinds of succession?

Succession can be of two types — testamentary and intestate.

  • If a person executes a valid Will as to whom the assets should go after his death, and his assets are passed on accordingly, it is referred to as testamentary succession.
  • In the absence of a Will, all the legal heirs under the relevant Succession Act become owners of their corresponding share(s) in the assets and such a succession is called an intestate succession
What are the documents required for transfer of asset ?

Documents required for transfer depends on type of asset, joint ownership, nomination, will. Usually the documents required , at times notarised, maybe :

  1. A copy of the Death Certificate.
  2. A copy of the Succession Certificate or an order of a court of competent jurisdiction where the deceased has NOT left a Will
  3. A copy of the Probate or Letter of Administration.
    1. Probate is a legal process in which the court certifies the authenticity of the Will.
    2. Letter of Administration is issued by a competent authority (court) and appoints the Administrator to dispose of the property of a person. It is required when :
      1. Testator has failed to appoint an executor under a Will OR
      2. Where the executor appointed under a Will refuses to act OR
      3. Where executor has died before or after proving the Will but before administration of the estate.

Our article  Succession Certificate,Letter of Administration,Probate of Will covers these documents in detail.

Transfer of Assets

For a smooth legacy, it is advised that various concerned parties should be informed. It includes intimation to debtors, the relevant authorities, housing society, banks, and companies or funds where deposits, shares, units have been inherited. Depending on the inherited financial asset you may need to transfer, close or complete formalities. You would be required to submit documents(Death Certificate,Succession certificate, Probate order or Letter of Administration) depending on Joint Ownership, Nomination, Will.

Property: Inherited assets such as land or property  need a title transfer, transfer from the name of the original owner to new owner. Stamp duty costs are associated with such transfers.

Saving Accounts : For closing savings accounts and post office savings accounts, it would entail some paperwork and formalities. In the event there is an inflow of funds in the name of the deceased depositor, bank shall consider adopting either of the following two approaches:

  • The Bank shall be authorized by the survivor(s) / nominee of a deceased account holder to open an account styled as Estate of Shri ________________, the Deceased where all the pipeline flows in the name of the deceased account holder shall be allowed to be credited, provided no withdrawals are made. OR
  • The Bank may seek authorization from the survivor(s)/nominee to return the pipeline flows to the remitter with the remark Account holder deceased and to intimate the survivor(s)/nominee accordingly. This will enable the survivor(s)/nominee to approach the remitter to effect payment in the name of the appropriate beneficiary.

Shares (Securities)Transmission is the process by which securities of a deceased account holder are transferred to the account of his legal heirs or nominee. Process of transmission in case of dematerialised holdings can be completed by submitting documents to the Depository Participant (DP). Whereas in case of physical securities the legal heirs or nominee or surviving joint holder has to independently correspond with each company in which securities are held. SEBI’s FAQ answers the question in detail.

Public Provident Fund (PPF) : After the death of account holder, the account can either be closed or continued without contribution. If it is not closed, it continues to earn interest but fresh contribution and partial withdrawal are not permitted. In the event of death of minor subscriber, the balance of PPF account is payable to legal heirs of minor. LawexpertsIndia THE PUBLIC PROVIDENT FUND SCHEME, 1968 covers it in detail.

Senior Citizen Scheme (SSC): In case of death of the depositor before maturity, the account shall be closed and deposit refunded without any deduction along with interest. The joint holder will be the first person entitled to receive the amount payable in the event of death of the depositor. The nominee’s claim will arise only after the death of both the joint holders.

Fixed Deposits:Our article Bank Account,Term Deposit,Locker:Paperwork Required For Claim discusses it in detail.

  • In the event of death of one (or more but not all) of the joint account holders, the term deposit can continue till the maturity but the account name is usually amended to read as Deceased next to the name of the deceased person along with the other survivors. On maturity the balance outstanding will be paid jointly to the survivor(s) and the legal heirs of the deceased joint account holder(s)
  • You can ask for a premature withdrawal by furnishing the death certificate and appropriate Documents.  Such premature withdrawal would not attract any penal charge.

Locker : Joint locker holders can give mandate for access to the lockers in the event of death of one of the holders on the lines similar to those for deposit accounts. In the absence of nomination or mandate for disposal of contents of lockers, the Bank will release the contents of locker to the legal heirs against indemnity on the lines as applicable to deposit accounts.Our article Bank Account,Term Deposit,Locker:Paperwork Required For Claim discusses it in detail.

Mutual Funds:  The kind of documents would depend on whether or not there is a joint holder. And if there is no joint holder, whether or not there is a nominee.

  • If the first holder dies, units can then be transferred to the surviving joint holders or to the nominee after some paperwork.
  •  In the case of demise of one of the joint holders (other than the first one), the investment will continue to remain in the name of the first unit holder. He will have the option to register any other person as a joint holder.

Note that when units get transferred to the surviving members in case the first holder dies, it is called transmission of units, not transfer. On the contrary, a transfer happens even when all the unit holders are alive. Our article Claiming Deceased’s Mutual Fund Units discusses it in detail.

Life insurance policies :  In the unfortunate event of death of policy holder ones needs to submit the claim which consists of following steps , explained in detail in Filing a Life Insurance Claim

  • Claim intimation or notification : The claimant must submit the written intimation as soon as possible to enable the insurance company to initiate the claim processing.
  • Fill the Claim Forms issued by the insurer along with supporting documents
  • Submit Documents : The claimant will be required to provide a claimant’s statement, original policy document, death certificate, police FIR and post mortem exam report (for accidental death), certificate and records from the treating doctor/hospital (for death due to illness) and advance discharge form for claim processing. Based on the sum at risk, cause of death and policy duration, insurance companies may also request some additional documents.

Vehicles: If you intend to keep the vehicle,You need to transfer ownership i.e registration, on death of owner of the vehicle. TeamBHP Transfer of registration after death of vehicle’s owner? covers it in detail.

Taxability of the inherited assets

Under section 56 of the Income-tax Act, any money received by an individual from a person during any fiscal year (FY) without consideration, the aggregate value of which exceeds Rs 50,000, is taxable under the head Income from other sources. However, an exemption could be availed if the money is received from a relative, which includes among others, any lineal ascendant or descendant of the individual. At present, there is no inheritance tax in India. Accordingly, the money received by you from your father, mother,siblings shall not be taxable.

Shares, Mutual Funds, Property, Gold: Any transfer of property qualifying as capital asset (shares, units of mutual funds, property), upon inheritance, does not normally give rise to a taxable event.

  • The tax liability arises in the hands of the successor only at the time of sale of these assets.
  • The tax liability will be based on period of holding of the asset. The asset is held for a period of long-term (beyond one year for shares,debentures, units of mutual funds; or beyond three years in case of other assets), or short-term.
  • In order to determine the period of holding in case of inherited assets, the period of holding of the previous owner is to be taken into consideration

Life Insurance : For life insurance policies: Under the provisions of section 10(10D) of the Income-tax Act, 1961, Death claims proceeds of life insurance policy, including the sum allocated by way of bonus on such policy is exempted from income- tax.

Fixed Deposit : If the account is closed and payment made then it is not  taxable in hands of successor. But if FD is continued then interest from FD from the date of  death to maturity will be added to the income of the successor. Tax on interest before the date of maturity would be added to liability of the deceased.

PPF, Senior Citizen Scheme : Tax free in hands of successor.

Household Goods, Furniture : These types of inheritances are yours.

Income Tax Return of the Deceased

Even when a person dies, the assessment of his income is to be done upto the time of his death.This is covered under Section 159 of the income tax act. The legal representative of the deceased has to file the income tax return for the income on which the deceased would have been liable to pay income tax if he had not died. Advance tax payments and self assessment tax payments are also to be done by the legal representative.

  • On the return, the name should be mentioned as late (name of deceased) through legal heir (name of person filing).
  • Who pays any income tax due? The tax is to be recovered from the estate of the deceased.  All the legal heirs are liable upto the extent of the assets that they inherit.

 Related Articles :

Note: This article is not intended to be specific advice. It is intended as a general guideline only. Any specific advice property or tax related should be sought from your tax professional.

In this article we have tried to cover what to do when one inherits,whether one needs to transfer the assets or sell it, what are  the costs of transferring the title of the assets, and the taxes of the bequeathed  assets. This would also help us to do required paperwork so that to whom we want to leave our assets actually inherit it with minimum legal issues(legal, tax).   How easy or difficult it is to inherit a financial asset? How was your experience , please share so that all of us learn and be aware!

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