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You Take The Wheel

There is a remedy for everything except death. As difficult as it is for the surviving partner to get on with life after the death of one’s spouse, the truth is, life must go on. So to meet the needs of life, the bereaved partner has to, amid all the grief and pain, attend to the money matters. Here’s what a widow or widower could do to manage money after the death of his or her spouse.

Surviving Spouse's Way To Financial Planning


Acquiring a death certificate, reviewing the departed’s Will, tracking his debts or credits, listing joint assets and keeping a tab on the cash flow can be traumatic for someone trying to cope with a huge emotional loss. But these should be taken care of at the earliest.


A Will is the final word on inheritance related issues. If there is no Will, a succession certificate is vital. A woman needs to apply for a succession certificate from a civil court governing the area where the deceased resided. This is critical, as Indian succession laws allow various relatives to stake claim to the deceased person’s assets. Before issuing the certificate, the court invites objections from other legal heirs. If there are no claims within 45 days, the certificate is issued rightaway. Else, the process can take time. To stake a claim, the wife should have the death certificate and the Will or a succession certificate. To claim insurance money, the insurance company needs to be informed first. The insurer, on being intimated, initiates an enquiry on the cause of the death.


Financial planning must be revised on the death of spouse. Take stock of current assets, including insurance claims, while planning future goals. Prudent handling of the insurance amount should be the top priority. The corpus should be allocated to various investments and income-generating instruments to take care of your current and future needs. 


Besides tapping into the provident fund and gratuity of the deceased spouse, manage your funds judiciously to ensure regular annuities. There are many products that help create regular income streams, such as monthly income schemes, fixed deposits with monthly income options, or insurance plans with regular cash-back options.


As a term deposit nominee, you can seek premature withdrawal by presenting the requisite documents, including the death certificate, and a photo identity. However, the process can be cumbersome if you are not a registered nominee. In that case you will have to submit documents to prove your legal authority.


For payments receivable in the name of the deceased, the Reserve Bank of India has two approved mechanisms in place. According to the first process, as a nominee of a deceased accountholder, you can authorise the bank to open an account as ‘estate of the deceased accountholder’, where all the fund in the deceased’s name will be directed before it is handed over to you. In the other process, the bank returns the cheque to the remitter with the remarks ‘accountholder deceased’, so the nominee or the legal heir can then contact the remitter for a fresh cheque in his or her name. It is also advisable to keep the deceased’s account alive for a while.


The absence of a Will can lead to delays in transferring assets to the spouse. To avoid this, a couple should work out the necessary details in advance. Also, ensure bank accounts have nominees. You should also reorient your portfolio to new realities. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to diverse realities, financial planning can go a long way in helping you attain your goals.

Next To Come: Caring For Kids With Special Needs