Talk inheritance with your spouse before it’s too late

Be aware of what you own and owe and check all financial documents

This is the story of Mrs Seema, recently widowed and trying to figure out her financial life, after her brother-in-law, who was a nominee in all financial accounts of her husband, refused to pass on the money to her. She doesn’t have the wherewithal to fight a legal battle.  Thankfully, the house she lives in was bought in her name and she has rented out a room to 2 young women to get some regular income. She is also taking vocational classes to make ends meet. Mrs Seema doesn’t want to be reliant on her children, who live abroad, or move in with them. 

While we spent March celebrating Women’s Day and talking about women empowerment, the reality is that women can be empowered only if they take it upon themselves to be empowered.  And it all starts with financial empowerment. 

Having an income stream has become a must. Many women give up work due to family duties and become dependent on their spouses for everything. Mrs Seema too gave up her job mid-career and regretted it ever since.  

Be aware of what you own and owe and check all financial documents. In most families, even now, it is the male member who handles all finances and doesn’t share information with the spouse. It is really up to the woman to take the initiative to find out about the various holdings and more importantly about holding patterns, nominations etc. In most cases including that of Mrs Seema, it is only after a contingency that women get into financial matters. Make a list of all financial accounts and check on holding patterns, contact details and if all nominations are in place. The financial accounts to be included are bank accounts, fixed deposits, investments, insurance policies and most importantly loans. The legal heirs are liable to pay off the outstanding loans of the deceased. Take some time to understand your assets and liabilities rather than having to do it when you may be in a difficult phase and not in the midframe to make the right decisions. 

Keeping relatives out of financial matters is a must. Not everybody can relate to what one is going through and their suggestions may just not work for a particular situation. Mrs Seema’s family recommended she sell the flat and move to her hometown, where expenses would be much lower. Her children offered to help including buying the house from her so that she could invest in a deposit to get monthly income. Already scarred by the experience with her brother-in-law, Mrs Seema preferred to stay in her flat and look at other ways to generate income. Even though she had to compromise her privacy by letting out a room, she was in charge of her life and did not have to be dependent on anybody.

The biggest learning from Mrs Seema’s story is the urgent need for women to get aware of what they own and owe rather than waiting to learn it the hard way. There is no one who can guarantee you security and financial independence except yourself.

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