As of December 2016, there is reportedly more than Rs. 8,800 crores lying unclaimed in over 2.5 crore bank accounts in India. Thankfully, the Reserve Bank of India has set certain guidelines to address this issue of unclaimed deposits and inoperative accounts, to help people get their money back. All the banks in the country are required to follow these rules and ensure that the process of claiming unclaimed deposits goes without a hitch.
Unclaimed deposits are deposits where the proceeds/maturity amount has not been claimed for a period of 10 years or more. In other words, term deposits are deemed unclaimed if they are inactive/inoperative for more than 10 years. The same holds good for accounts too.
The first thing that will happen to the unclaimed fixed deposits and inoperative bank accounts that have seen zero activity for 10 years, is they will be transferred to the bank’s head office.
Then, either of the two situations will happen:
In either case, it is possible to claim the unclaimed funds. As stated above, the RBI has made it easy for people to get these funds. All banks are required to display the inactive bank account and term deposits details on their websites. The list must contain the names of the account holders and their address only.
Certain banks also provide search criteria like PAN card details, date of birth, name and telephone number, et cetera, to help users refine their searches. In addition to this, banks are required to clearly state the procedure to claim the funds on their websites. Therefore, you can visit the bank’s site and search for the unclaimed account/deposits right there.
The first thing you need to do is visit the nearest branch of your bank and submit the unclaimed deposits claim form.
There are four possible scenarios where you will be allowed to claim the funds:
In either case, you must attach the relevant documents with your form which prove that you are indeed the legal heir/nominee/owner of the unclaimed account. Keep in mind that the bank will scrutinize your documents and verify them before the claim can be settled. Therefore, you must submit authentic, original papers, along with the identity and address proof.
For instance, if you are the legal heir of the original account holder, you will be asked to submit the proof that establishes you as the heir, along with the death certificate of the deceased. Similarly, if you are claiming funds from a company/institution’s account, you will need to submit the request on the official letterhead of the firm in question, with signatures from necessary authorities.
Once the validity and authenticity of the claim are verified, it is considered settled and the status of the account/deposit is changed from inactive to regular.
It is quite convenient to claim unclaimed deposits from banks, provided you have a legitimate cause to do so. A simple search on the bank’s website will tell you if you or any of your family members have an inactive/unclaimed account. If you want to claim the funds, you will be asked to furnish all the necessary documents that, in turn, will be verified before the claim can be settled.