A nominee is a legal trustee of the assets of the deceased i.e. a custodian. The nominee will only hold your money/asset as a trustee and is legally bound to transfer it to the legal heir(s) entitled to the deceased’s assets. A legal heir is the person bequeathed the asset in the will of the deceased. However, if a will is not made, then the legal heirs of the assets are decided according to the succession laws, for which a succession certificate will be issued by the relevant court.

Even if one has made a will, it is a best practice to make nominations in favour of desired beneficiaries in respect of all assets such as real estate properties, bank/demat accounts, fixed/recurring deposits, bank lockers, investments (mutual funds, shares, bonds, debentures), Public Provident Fund, insurance policies and other corporate and Govt investment schemes. Banks usually ask you to mention a nominee while opening a bank account — be it a savings bank account or a fixed deposit. A nominee is a person that an account holder designates to claim the money in the savings account after the original owner of the account dies.

Though it is not mandatory, it is certainly preferable for the nominee in respect of these assets to be the same as the beneficiary mentioned in the Will. This will avoid any possible dispute, which may occur if the nominee and legal heir/beneficiary are different individuals/entities and would also simplify the transfer of assets.

Transmission of the deceased person’s assets to the nominee is much smoother and requires less paperwork – normally nothing more than a death certificate of the deceased, proof of identity of the nominee and an application form. If, on the other hand, no nominee is listed, the transmission process can get quite complicated involving various long forms, indemnity bonds and affidavits, which may have to be signed by all legal heirs – both the beneficiary as well as others who have not been bequeathed the asset.