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Succession planning tips for your financial and digital assets

8 MinsNovember 07, 2019

Our way of life has become increasingly digital and would continue to be so. Communication, banking, shopping, and even documentation now reside largely on internet-connected digital domains for most of us. Access to these digital assets is usually regulated through means like passwords, digital keys and biometric authentication, which makes them highly personal. As a result, in an emergency or the event of someone’s death, people often find themselves without access to important documents, funds and other data.

financial and digital assets

Fortunately, for your digital assets, the path to proper digital inheritance is still open. We’re going to show you how to ensure a proper inheritance channel for your accounts and assets and the correct way to access such assets.

Bank Accounts
When setting up a bank account, there are certain steps that you need to take to allow someone else to access your account in case of an emergency. At the time of setting up an account, you should always file for a nomination – a facility that is available to every account holder.

Nominee:
For Axis Bank accounts, a nomination form is available online. Note that you can change your nominee as long as your account is functional. Additionally, it is also important to know that a nominee can only access the funds in your account in the event of your death. They cannot do the same if the account holder is incapacitated or hospitalised or unable to do so themselves for any other reason. To solve such situations, a joint account is the way to go.

Joint Account:
Usually, joint accounts have a survivor clause where in the event of the death of one of the account holders, the other can take complete ownership of the account. Depending on how the account is set up, this can be done either with or without having to furnish additional documents. When it comes to Axis Bank accounts, the form for a nominee claim and a joint account transfer to survivor are the same

Investments
Investments can be of great use when emergency funds are required. However, the investment owner might not be alive or in a condition to undertake the required procedures themselves. To prepare yourself for such situations it is important to know the steps that need to be taken.

When it comes to investments – ranging from fixed deposits to PPF accounts and more – most come with a procedure to tackle the disbursal of funds in the event of an untimely demise of the account holder(s). For any joint investment account, the survivor can claim the fund. For particular account types, the survivor can even continue using the account. For individual accounts, there’s a provision of nominating an individual for the same. In case a nominee isn’t registered, for a claim to be made a proper set of documents needs to be produced such as a will, succession certificate and more. For Axis Bank, the process can be started by submitting investment account claim form along with the required documents.

[Also Read: Bank FD vs PPF]

In case the account holder is incapacitated or unable to visit the bank in person, funds can still be withdrawn from their account. For this to be done, the individual can use their thumbprints on the cheque or withdrawal form, or even a mark. This needs to be done in the presence of two witnesses, one of whom needs to be a bank official.

Social Media and other platforms

Social media has become a treasure trove of information when it comes to an individual’s online identity. In fact, the same can be said for almost any digital service you’ve used regularly. Hence, it is expected that in the event of a loved one’s demise, their near and dear ones might want to be able to access their accounts or be able to deactivate or alter them in some way. Furthermore, beyond personal information, few social media platforms present an opportunity to earn based on the monetisation of historically created content. Therefore, it becomes even more important to gain some form of access or control. Let’s have a quick look at what some of the top platforms allow:

Facebook:
You can nominate a legacy contact who will have access to certain actions on your account like pinning a post, responding to new friend requests, changing profile and cover picture. However, for this to be set into motion, a memorialisation request needs to be raised. With respect to monetisation, a user can earn off of their original content on Facebook, like videos on their page, by allowing ads to run on them. However, the income from this is directly transferred to the bank account and does not require someone to have access to the profile. The process to access the bank account has been explained earlier.

There's another situation possible on Facebook with regard to groups, which are essentially communities with multiple users but a single admin or owner. In case the admin passes away, any moderator (or member, in case there are no moderators) can claim the role of an admin. The details are available on Facebook.

Instagram:
Also allows memorialisation, but here that only means a complete freeze in terms of likes, followers, etc. It can be requested on the platform. A deletion request will require you to prove that you’re authorised to act on the deceased’s behalf. Instagram currently does not allow monetisation on the platform itself.

Twitter:
Only allows removal of account, which can be requested on the platform. Additionally, Twitter also allows video content monetisation but follows the same process as Facebook by transferring the money directly to a bank account, access to which has been explained earlier.

Google:
Using a feature known as Inactive Account Manager, you can give access to specific Google services and data on your account in case you’ve been inactive for a certain period. Even if you have not set it up, Google allows a person to submit a request regarding a deceased individual’s account, which is granted subject to Google approval, court orders and necessary documents wherever applicable. This includes accessing funds that are saved in any Google services such as Google AdSense or Google Wallet.

Most platforms, apps, and services will allow access or deletion of the deceased’s digital assets as long as they are provided with adequate proof of death of the account holder and authorizing documentation to act on the deceased’s behalf.

There could be a situation where the deceased person’s account is also in control of the property on the platform such as brand pages on Facebook and Twitter, mascot profiles, YouTube channels run by a group, etc. For such cases, it is a good practice to set multiple tiers of ownership or admin rights from the start.

This doesn’t explicitly cover every single digital avenue that might benefit from proper digital inheritance procedures. That makes it all the more important for you to check for the availability of such procedures for every aspect of your digital identity – old and new – because emergencies and calamities don’t knock before arrival.

Disclaimer: This article has been authored by Siddharth Parwatay, a Mumbai based independent tech-journalist, editor, and content-creator. Axis Bank doesn't influence any views of the author in any way. Axis Bank and/or the author shall not be responsible for any direct / indirect loss or liability incurred by the reader for taking any financial decisions based on the contents and information. Please consult your financial advisor before making any financial decision.

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