Coping up with death of a close family member is itself a mammoth task – the emotional stress, the vacuum and coming to terms with the new reality. Because life goes on, irrespective of everything that is happening. And whether you like it or not the people who are left behind have to deal with it – even with the unfinished tasks of the one who has departed. Sharing one such experience of a woman after she lost her husband at an early age and it has important lessons for all of us.
“Few things I learnt after my husband’s death:- We always believe we will live forever. Bad things always happen to others. Only when things hit us bang on your head you realise… Life is so unpredictable…. My husband was an IT guy, All technical. And I am a chartered accountant. Awesome combination you may think.
Techie guy so everything is on his laptop. His to do list. His e-bill and his bank statements in his email. He even maintained a folder which said IMPWDS wherein he stored all login id and passwords for all his online accounts. And even his laptop had a password. Techie guy so all the passwords were alpha-numeric with a special character not an easy one to crack. Office policy said passwords needed to be changed every 30 days. So every time I accessed his laptop I would realize it’s a new password again. I would simply opt for asking him ‘What’s the latest password instead of taking the strain to memorize it.
You may think me being a Chartered Accountant would means everything is documented and filed properly. Alas many of my chartered accountant friends would agree that the precision we follow with our office documents and papers do not flow in to day to day home life. At office you have be epitome of Reliability / Competent / Diligent etc but. At home front there is always a tomorrow.
One fine morning my hubby expired in a bike accident on his way home from office.. He was just 33. His laptop with all his data crashed. Everything on his hard disk wiped off. No folder of IMPWDS to refer back to. His mobile with all the numbers on it was smashed. But that was just the beginning. I realised I had lot to learn.
Nine years married to one of the best human beings with no kids just the two of us to fall back on but now I stood all alone and lost. Being chartered accountant helped in more ways than one but it was not enough. I needed help. His saving bank accounts, his salary bank accounts had no nominee. On his insurance his mom was the nominee and it was almost 2 years back she had expired. But this was just a start. I didn’t know the password to his email account where all his e-bill came. I didn’t know which expenses he paid by standing instructions.
His office front too was not easy. His department had changed recently. I didn’t know his reporting boss name to start with when had he last claimed his shift allowance, his mobile reimbursement.
The house we bought with all the excitement on a loan thought with our joint salary we could afford the EMI. When the home loans guys suggested insurance on the loan, we decided the instead of paying the premium the difference in the EMI on account of the insurance could be used pay towards pre-payment of the loan and get the tenure down. We never thought what we would do if we have to live on a single salary. So now there was huge EMI to look into.
I realised I was in for a long haul.
Road accident case. So everywhere I needed a Death certificate, FIR report, Post Mortem report. For everything there were forms running into pages indemnity bonds, notary, surety to stand up for you. No objections certificates from your co-heirs.
I learnt other than your house, your land, Your car, your bike are also your property. So what if you are the joint owner of the flat you don’t become the owner just because your hubby is no more. So what if your hubby expired in the bike accident and you are the nominee but if the bike is in a repairable condition, you have to get the bike transferred in your name to claim the insurance. And that was again not easy. The bike or car cannot be transferred in your name without going through a set of legal documents. Getting a Succession Certificate is another battle all together.
Then came the time you realise now you have to start changing all the bills, assets in your name. Your gas connection, electricity meter, your own house, your car, your investments and all sundries. And then change all the nominations where your own investments are concerned. And again a start of a new set of paperwork.
To say I was shaken my whole life had just turned upside down was an understatement. You realise you don’t have time to morn and grieve for the person with whom you spend the best years of your life. Because you are busy sorting all the paper work.
I realised then how much I took life for granted. I thought being a chartered accountant I am undergoing so many difficulties, what would have happened to someone who was house maker who wouldn’t understand this legal hotchpotch.
A sweet friend then told me dear this was not an end, you have no kids, your assets will be for all who stand to claim. After my hubby’s sudden death. I realised it was time I took life more seriously. I now needed to make a Will. I would have laughed if a few months back if he had asked me to make one. But now life had taken a twist.
Lessons learnt this hard way were meant to be shared. After all why should the people whom we love the most suffer after we are no more. Sorting some paperwork before we go will at least ease some of their grief.
1. Check all your nominations… It’s a usual practice to put a name (i.e in the first place if you have mentioned it) and royally forget about it. Most of us have named our parent as a nominee for investments, bank accounts opened before marriage. We have not changed the same even years after they are no longer there with us. Even your salary account usually has no nomination.. Kindly check all your Nominations. – Bank Accounts – Fixed Deposits, NSC – Bank Lockers – Demat Accounts – Insurance (Life, Bike or Car or Property) – Investments – PF Pension Forms
2. Passwords.. We have passwords for practically everything. Email accounts, Bank accounts, even for the laptop you use. What happens when your next in kin cannot access any of these simply because they do not know your password… Put it down on a paper.
3. Investments. Every year for tax purpose we do investments. Do we maintain an excel sheet about it. If so is it on the same laptop of which the password you had not shared. Where are those physical investments hard copy.
4. Will. Make a Will. I know you will smile even I would had I not gone through all what I did. It would have made my life lot easier a lot less paperwork. I wouldn’t had to provide an indemnity bond, get it notarised, ask surety to stand up, no objections certificates from others…
5. Liabilities. When you take a loan say for your house or car. Check out on all the what if, what if I am not there tomorrow, what if I lose my job. Will the EMI still be within my range. If not get an insurance on the loan. The people left behind will not have to worry on something as basic as their own house.
My battles have just begun… But let us at least try and make few changes so that our loved ones would not suffer after we go. We do not know what will happen in the future. But as the Scout motto goes: Be prepared “
With our current ways, most people live in nuclear families and we hardly have anyone to fall back on in case of a misfortune. There are a few things we can do immediately –
(a) Get organised – Document the details of all your bank accounts, investments, assets and liabilities. Keep it updated. And once in six months print out the details and keep the hard copy at home.
(b) Educate your spouse about the investments, assets and liabilities at least once in a year or whenever there is a major update or change – especially if she is not used to the paperwork.
It is very important that we proactively spend time on this personal and financial management on a regular basis to minimise the challenges of our loved ones once we are not around.