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Understanding Joint Account, Will and Nominee

1 September, 2021

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Some financial and legal terms are easy and yet, complicated. We believe we know what they mean.  But when we look it up, the nuances therein may quite surprise us. Many of us have faced these issues post a person’s death. If there is no will created, then the family faces many issues and legal hassles for sure. At times, even with the presence of a will deed, there could be some unforeseen hassles.

Creating a will is an essential activity irrespective of age, and it should be kept updated periodically.  Life is uncertain, and no one plans to die. Hence, a will deed can help ease the issues to sort out the matters once we are no longer there. Moreover, it is another way of showing our loved ones that we care for them.  

One of the biggest mistakes made by most people is not understanding the meaning of terms like a joint account, will, and nominee. They all have different implications, and each one is important in its place and not necessarily a replacement for the other. So let’s try and understand what these terms mean and how their correct implementation can help our family handle our post-death matters.

Joint Account

A joint account in the banks can be of two types – either or survivor mode and former or survivor mode. In either or survivor mode, the joint account owner (usually the spouse) can operate the account along with you. This would mean that the other person can also do all transactions with the bank account just as you would. 

However, if you want the joint holder to transact only after your death, you could choose the former or survivor mode. That would enable your joint account holder to operate the account once you are no longer there. A joint account is applicable for FDs, mutual funds, and even your properties. This option ensures a smooth transition of the properties and finances without any complex legal hassles. This option is better than a nomination facility and needs only minimum processing for the other person to operate the account on the demise of one person.


Why do I need a will if I have ensured nominees for all my assets? This is a common mistake made by many people and their families, then pay for it. The misconception is about the nominee becoming the owner of the asset where they are nominated. That is not the case; in the Indian legal scenario, the nomination is only a right to receive and hold (as a trustee) and not necessarily own that asset. The will supersedes the nominations, and even the succession acts prevalent in India. Simply put, a nomination can always be legally challenged by someone, whereas a will makes things clear. It clearly states a person’s intentions to transfer their assets to another person(s) without ambiguity. 

So, does this make a nomination superfluous? No, you need to ensure nomination for each one of your assets. It includes bank accounts, FDs, RDs, properties, insurance, equities, mutual funds, etc. In addition, nominations make it easier to execute the will, as it means you appoint a trustee. But, creating a will is a must. 


A will supersedes all other claims, and hence for a smooth transition of our assets to our loved ones, a will is a must. One of the most common mistakes people make is not to have uniformity in these three. For example, you may have a joint account with one person, allocate someone else as a nominee, and have no will. It could be worse if the will states something opposing the allocated nominees and joint account holders. Hence, a will should have clarity on all assets and their succession.


Please ensure that you have joint accounts with the person to whom you want to transfer your assets, wherever possible. Make sure this person is the nominee in all financial investments, if not a joint account holder. Identify all your assets and make sure they are mentioned in your will, with succession to the person of your choice. 

You may have to revisit your old bank accounts and assets to check for any conflict anywhere. Sometimes, we create joint accounts with other family members, forget to change the nomination to our spouse’s name after marriage, etc. It also means you need to check old wills if any. Hence, check all your assets and try to bring clarity. 

For a best-case scenario, ensure joint accounts, nomination, and will succession in the same person’s name. Of course, a will can also be created on plain paper and changed any number of times. However, to avoid all contests and challenges, a will should be created and registered, and the successor informed about the same. Sometimes, the successor not being aware of the existence of the will is also a problem. 

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