I am writing this so that the ladies who are reading can check if they are in this position should the worst happen. It is also for the males reading here to figure out if their wives are in this position.
A couple of years back, one of my juniors in college died and his friends asked his wife to meet me to sort out her finances. The meeting with her and her daughter, to say the least, was extremely distressing. The guy had died in hospital after a prolonged illness. He had two children, the boy had finished college and the daughter was still in college. No life insurance, no health insurance. He had two bank accounts – both in single name – his. No nomination. No will. Some idiot had advised the wife to immediately inform the bank of his death, which she had done and the manager had frozen the accounts. Though this is the correct thing to do, it is not practical. The family should remove all the money from the account by way of ATM cards or cheques before informing the bank – after all it is their money. However, this would not have helped this lady – there were no presigned blank cheques and she did not know the ATM pin!
On further probing, she told me that her husband had taken loans on his credit cards to pay the medical bills and probably had taken a personal loan also – totally amounting to around 4.5 lacs. She was worried how she was going to pay these debts!
I asked her how she knew that there were these debts. “The loan company people told me” was her reply.
Now this is something that I have also come across other ladies worrying about. They are in deep trouble financially themselves and can barely sustain the daily expenses, but they are more worried about paying off someone who has informed them that there is an outstanding debt. Mind you, none of these ladies had signed for this debt.
I explained to her that there is no reason she should be paying this money. Just do not pay. The credit card company can take it from your bank account (if it is in the same bank), so close the account or transfer out all the money there. A credit card debt or a personal loan is an unsecured loan. They cannot come after the spouse if the spouse has not signed on the papers. They can bully, yes. Making a recording of a threatening call and a police complaint normally sees the end of such tactics.
Little did she know that her woes were just starting.
I asked the lady how she was going to meet her immediate expenses as her accounts had been frozen. She told me that someone advised her that the quickest way to get some money was to sell off her husband’s property. Probing a bit more, she told me that it was ancestral property and the other heirs to the properties were her husband’s sisters – two of them and the widow of her husband’s younger brother’s wife.
How was the relationship with these people? When did you last meet them? Where are the properties? In whose name?
It seems that relationships with all those relatives was almost non-existent. She had not met them for years. There were two properties – one in his grandfather’s name. This grandfather had died nearly 25 years back and the property was still in his name. The other one was in his father’s name and he had died nearly 10 years back and it was also still in his name. In addition, one of the properties, which was in Ranchi, was given to a builder to develop it more than 10 years back and there was no progress in that deal!
I told her that she had to visit these relatives as soon as possible and had to create a ‘bond’ with them. Work on creating a relationship.
I did not have the heart to tell her that even if all the relatives agreed to sell the properties on that very day, it would take at least a year or more to actually get some money. Also, whenever there is ancestral property involved, the relatives become the most vicious people around. A total stranger may assist you, but not the relatives!! That has been my experience.
I told her to approach the bank manager and plead with him to unfreeze the accounts and let her withdraw the money – which he did do.
Three months later, she gave me a call “These people are very strange – they didn’t give any response whatsoever when I asked them to sell those properties!”
In short, if you have ancestral property, make sure the title is clear and transferred to those who are presently alive and be on very good terms with the other heirs of the property!!
I had told her to give me a call, in case she needed any help or guidance. Her husband’s batchmates were ever willing to help. However, I did not receive any call from her for well over a year. Sometime back, I suddenly remembered the lady and asked around how she was doing. Then someone told me that after she got absolutely frustrated, she decided to move to Calcutta and started a shop there. It was not doing too well and ultimately, she died of a heart attack!
Felt really sad. All this could have been avoided with a little financial knowledge and planning.