WHEN A WIFE BECOMES WIDOW AND FINDS HERSELF SUDDENLY ALONE – PREPARE DISASTER MANAGEMENT PLAN NOW

 By now you have seen on TV, the widows of the men who were killed in terrorist attacks in New York , Mumbai, Delhi and London.  They tell of hardship coping with confused, upset children and looming financial distress during a period when their grief makes it difficult to complete the most ordinary tasks let alone sort out the estate of beloved, terribly missed husband.   Many in USA and England helped these women.   All govt. agencies  helped them to expedite the issuing of death certificates making it easier to get insurance benefits.  They are getting free legal aid.

 Let us see what happens to a similar situation in India.   No help whatsoever comes in the  wake of terrorist attacks, in Delhi and Mumbai, natural disasters as in Mumbai, Orissa or in Gujarat, no Govt., Municipal or legal advice, no financial help.  Yes, lot of VIP visits and empty promises, empathy but no concrete help and this difference in attitude makes the task of Indian widow onerous one.

 This note has been prepared with the fond hope that husband when alive, will take certain actions, which considerably reduces the chances of harassment when wife is alone.   In this respect sensible financial planning can be crucial.

Anticipating a tragedy may be one of the most important bits of financial planning a wife can do.  Thinking ahead to protect yourself and your children in the event of a disaster, while perhaps emotionally difficult, need not take a great deal of time or be very complicated nor very costly unlike in USA, and you could some day be very grateful you did it.

 WILL power

 First step – you and your spouse should make separate WILL and get them registered.  In India(Delhi)getting a WILL registered cost less than Rs. 21/-  Abroad it may cost $ 1500-2000.  It’s a myth that people in their late 20s  and early 30s are too young to worry about a WILL.   Indeed that age group suffered most on September 11 attack in NY and most died intestate or without a WILL.  Lack of WILL makes the process of recovery  lengthier and complicated resulting in court cases.

 It’s also a myth that you need to have substantial amount of money and assets including immovable property to make a WILL.  If you fail to make your WILL, your property will be distributed by law to your legal heirs – including your mother,  widow, children(s) etc. as in the case of Indian Hindu male.In the case of hindu women, property goes to husband, daughter and son.

 Legally speaking there is no difference in registered and un-registered WILL.  However, if one goes by experience, there are lesser chances of people going to courts, if WILL is registered.   It is also essential that a copy of WILL should be available with YOU OR your lawyer/friend/relative so that it is easy to get same in the event of your or spouse death.

 Step II  Keeping records 

Step two in your disaster management plan costs nothing but time.  You and your husband should gather all of your key records, a copy of WILL and information where original is kept, account numbers, safe deposit locker information, insurance, PF, PPF beneficiaries and the like.   Keep them in one place but definitely not at where you work.  All documents in twin World Trade Centre were lost.

All those in employment in high positions depend too much on their Offices and/or on PAs to keep such records without  may be without the knowledge of wife. Can a better system be devised by such persons.

 Step III  Keeping Records updated

You should also update your records and files every month so that you are not caught up with unpleasant surprises.

Amar Pandit, Financial Analyst, Mumbai says that in his experience only 5% have proper financial records.

Keep an ASSET REGISTER.

Step IV  Stay Informed

If you have opened an account in Bank, PPF, or taken a life policy before marriage, do remember to change your nominee in Bank, PF, PPF, Insurance Policy etc.   Ensure that after marriage, nominee and beneficiary under the WILL is your spouse in all instruments. 

Step V  Keep track of following

House and Flats:-  Original sale deed, if on power of attorney the original POA, original documents given by DDA/Housing Agency to original allottee, payment receipts, allotment letter, Vth and last payments, possession letter, letter of physical handing over of house/flat, registered WILL of original allottee, sale deed, special and general power of attorney, etc. (a word of caution – never part with your original/photocopy of documents to anyone), house tax receipts, bank account numbers, cheque books, locker number and bank, FDRs of bank, companies and other financial instruments nomination under GPF, PF, PPF, Post Office accounts, car papers and insurance, income tax files, insurance policies including life, house hold, medi-claim, etc.   Pension file, legal cases file if any, DVB, DJB payments, passport and their numbers if any, property on rent – original lease deed and host of other documents.

Step VI – Write Name of Helpful Person

 Write down the name of person(s) who will be helpful in  period of distress.

 Step VII – (Final piece of emergency planning) Write Power of attorney in favour of your Spouse

You and your spouse need to give each other power of attorney over the other assets in the event that one of you is severely injured but does not die.

All this may sound gruesome but sudden death of your spouse is something you might have to face one day. The bottom line in disaster management planning is to help the surviving partner and make the transition to a life without you. 

 N. AHUJA

MA.,LLB, P.G.Dip (Manchester Business School), AIPM ( London)

Management Consultant & Retirement Planner

Advocate

 Mobile: 9312234825

Courtesy RREWA and Thanks to Mr. N.Auhja

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