The rebuilding of a financial picture of the person who is no more is key to getting back on your financial feet
The calls for help are many. Somebody has lost a spouse. Somebody a parent. Somebody has lost a sibling or a close relative or friend. The healthcare battle being lost, we now need to begin on the wealth care front. The emotional issues will take a lifetime to work through, but the push of bills, EMIs, rent, school fees, groceries and suchlike expenses and dues is a clock that does not stop ticking.
Covid is leaving spouses, children and dependant parents suddenly having to deal with the absence of the people running the home both physically and financially. Even for people with Wills, those left behind may not know the details of all the assets and liabilities, of all the insurances and financial relationships in place. Trying to piece together a financial picture of the person gone is not an easy task even for those who have been fairly organised.
I am writing a series that will help put together this financial identity. Think of it as a reconstruction of the financial life of the person gone and we are looking for clues, resources and documents to put the pieces together. I will begin with identifying the people who could help. These will be either service providers or in the know of the financial map of the person who can no longer pull out the file to point out the details. Death is so final. Only when you experience it close hand can you actually understand the finality. We are all devastated by our collective loss. Here is hoping that at least the financial picture can be better seen with these resources.
So, who should be your first port of call?
- Financial Planner. If you are lucky, then you have been working with a financial planner who has full oversight of your entire money life. That planner would have ensured that the nominations were in place and the Wills were written, signed and witnessed. The planner is your gateway to financial stability. But since we still hesitate to engage fee-for full service financial planners and there are very few who would be in this place.
- CA. The second person you call is the family’s chartered accountant. The CA or whoever files the taxes again has oversight over most of the financial pieces of a person’s life. The CA will have information on the income, expenses, savings, investments toward tax saving, bank accounts, documents like PAN, Aadhaar and others. The CA may also know of other financial relationships and assets and could also have access to documents.
- Boss. The third call is to the office and the person who the deceased would report to is a good person to begin with. The boss can then ask the office HR and accounts to help with information and documents they might have. A personal assistant, secretary will also have access to many pieces of the money puzzle. Details such as monthly income, bonus or commissions and insurance if any can be got from the office. Also details of loans if any taken. A good company will waive the loan given the pandemic.
- Bank relationship manager. Next, speak with the bank relationship manager if you know who he or she is. For the bank to officially talk to you, you will need to have documents such as the death certificate, Will, legal heir certificate and/or succession certificate in place. The bank will be able to give you statements that will provide clues to the inflows and outflows.
- Agents and brokers. Then figure out who the financial agents the person has been working with. Typically there will be insurance agents, mutual fund agents, stock brokers, real estate brokers. You may remember from shared conversations the identity of some of these service providers and can contact them to figure out what the asset picture looks like. They will be able to give details of products held, account statements and help with the filing of claims.
- Lawyer. You should also speak to the family lawyer if any. A lawyer might have access to some documents, some paperwork and might have clues to what assets or liabilities the deceased had.
- Friends and colleagues. There is usually two or three confidants of a person who they discuss money matters with. You may be familiar with such a relative or close family friend who was part of the money conversation of the person who is not there anymore. They will give direction to your search for assets and the location of the paperwork and people you might have missed knowing in the list above.
Keep a diary in which you take notes because the final picture will take a long time to build. Remember, at this stage we are just putting down a list of people to contact. What we want from them and how we go about it is in the next few posts. Next I will list out the digital exhaust that an average person emits and how you can use it to build the money jigsaw.