Here's how to recover your lost and forgotten investments even after 10 yrs

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If you think hard about it, you will probably be able to recall an idle bank account that still has a few hundred rupees. You may not have bothered to close the account and recover that amount out of sheer inertia. Older folks often speak of old share and deposit certificates they came across in old trunks, which they had forgotten about completely. If one goes by the replies to members' queries posed in the Lok Sabha, forgotten investments are a big issue. Massive amounts of money lie forgotten with banks, insurance companies, and housing finance companies (see table). 

Investments made and forgotten: One of the most common reasons why money lies unclaimed with financial institutions is that people lose track of investments made or policies purchased a long time ago. The concerned companies and financial institutions, too, fail to locate investors or policyholders as contact details change and are not updated with the company. “Many investors do not maintain a systematic record of their investments, such as a list with details of their investments, and also the original documents for those investments. Once the original documents are lost, it becomes difficult to claim the amount that is due to them,” says Abhijit Gulanikar, chief officer-business strategy, SBI Life Insurance.  

Sometimes investments are passed on by grandparents and parents. But the nominees and legal heirs fail to claim them as they are not aware of the existence of those assets. This happens especially in the absence of a will. 

Among those who have lost track of their investments, many are senior citizens.  “Many senior citizens had made investments at a time when documents were not digitalised. Many of them have lost their papers, not kept track of their investments, or failed to follow up with the company,” says Vikash Jain, co-founder, Share Samadhan, a company that helps people recover lost and forgotten investments. 

The government has begun to take measures to help transfer such forgotten amounts to their legal owners. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has mandated that banks should publish details on their websites of accounts that have remained inoperative and inactive. Insurance companies too update details of unclaimed funds on their web sites. 

Asset recovery companies can help you: Sunita Agarwal (name changed on request ), wife of a leading Delhi-based lawyer, learnt that her deceased mother had left behind shares of multiple companies for her. But Sunita's mother had not appointed her the nominee of any of these shares. Since their value ran into millions, it was mandatory for her to obtain a Succession Certificate from the district court, an arduous  task. She approached Delhi-based company Share Samadhan. The latter segregated the companies that were required to be mentioned in the succession petition, and others where ownership of shares could be transferred without a succession certificate. Although it took 10 months, they got the succession certificate from the court and helped Agarwal claim ownership of shares worth around Rs 10.5 million. 

Similarly, 58-year-old Vijay Jain, a resident of Delhi, who had lost all his share certificates and could not trace them for a long time, was able to recover his investments with the aid of an asset recovery company.

Besides Share Samadhan, several other players, such as Hidden Wealth, Wealth Locator and Asset Tracer help clients recover unclaimed money. The process includes filing legal claims where necessary, tracing the investments, and approaching the concerned companies where the investor's money is locked up. These asset locators also work on obtaining the missing documents and then claiming the forgotten holdings. Most of these companies charge a fee of 10-25 per cent of the reclaimed amount if they are successful. They also charge an advance, which is refunded if the investments are not recovered. 

Claim it on your own: If you want to recover the money yourself, you can so as well. Let us look at a couple of situations. Suppose that a person's parents passed away without appointing him the nominee in their bank account. “If you are the legal heir and your name is not mentioned in your father’s bank account, you will need to submit the succession certificate or Legal Heir Certificate to the bank, depending on the latter's policy,” says Jain. The legal heir will also have to produce other documents such as KYC details and NOC (No Objection Certificate) from other legal heirs, in a situation where one of them is claiming the amount and the rest of the legal heirs are waiving their rights.

An investor who has lost her share certificates and does not even remember the folio numbers of her holdings should get in touch with the company directly. She should write to it mentioning her personal details and provide her KYC documents. After authenticating the applicant, the company will provide information about her holdings after searching its shareholding list.

Reclaim money even after 10 years 

  • If an account has not been operated for 10 years, or any amount remains unclaimed for more than 10 years, it is transferred to RBI’s Depositor Education and Awareness Fund Scheme
  • An investor can claim the money, or operate his account, even after such a long gap by appoaching his bank
  • The bank will claim the money back from the fund 
  • If no claim has been made for 10 years after maturity of a traditional insurance policy, the money gets transferred to the Senior Citizens Welfare Fund (SCWF). 
  • This money can be claimed within the next 25 years by providing KYC details and proving authenticity

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