My mother had been a steady and diligent investor, reading up and investing in stocks from her college days. While that was one part of her risk profile, as a south Indian middle-class woman, unearned income by way of interest, especially compound interest, was her all-time favourite.

A tech-enthusiast, she went online with her investments very early and stayed on top of her portfolio every single day no matter where in the globe she was, until old age overtook her interest levels.

Another abiding trait of hers was her meticulousness. The forms, the signatures, the nominations, the processes. She could tutor the financial entities and intermediaries just took her word for procedures.

Coming to the one error she made. And, I own up to it as well. Some years ago, when RBI Bonds became interesting (now called Government of India Bonds), she reinvested her NBFC fixed deposit proceeds. Since she bought it in demat form into her securities account, she thought the nomination on the securities account would cover it. She ran this by me and it sounded about right. The bank that held her demat account failed to advise her otherwise.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago when she passed away. The RBI Bonds, nominated to me, could not be transmitted as there was no nomination and no will covering this investment. The bank was careless enough to ask me to go through a whole song and dance routine of an indemnity bond, a surety (!) and other documents before ‘discovering’ that all this would suffice only if the value was less than ₹2 lakh.

Succession certificate

A year had passed with their toing and froing, and the officials I was talking to at various levels in the bank just could have applied their minds at the right time. Finally, they said I needed to get a succession certificate from the court. Since my only sibling, who lives abroad was also an heir, his signature was needed at every stage and so papers waited.

After all this, the court procedure was almost a delight! Paperwork abounded, it took about 10 months but it was fairly streamlined and clear. A few more months to get the investments transferred and further time to get the withheld interest of over two years paid to me.

Lesson learnt. Now I trawl through my portfolios, and those of my family members and friends at their request, and keep plugging the nomination holes, update legacy contact information and bank ECS. Yes, I find errors.

So, don’t make assumptions, including that your financial entity’s staff have the right knowledge and are guiding you responsibly.

(The writer is a business journalist specialising in insurance & corporate history)