How to leave your assets for your kin.
I lost my favourite pehi two weeks ago. She had told me that she was feeling alright and was looking forward to her operation. It was the day before she went through her heart operation in a private hospital in Kolkata. Two days later, her son informed me that she was in the ICU for post-operative complications. And two more days later, she was flown back to Guwahati in a wooden box. She was only 61.
I have used this space to talk about death and it’s financial complications before. I don’t know why death is never discussed in our drawing rooms or at our dining tables. If anything is certain in life, it is death. Yet, we fail to discuss with our near and dear ones what to do after we are gone. We know that the cycle of life goes on even after our death, but often fail to give directions to our spouse, sons and daughters. It is a cultural failure.
First things first, write a will. Keep your papers straight. If you possess a bicycle, write a will. If you own an island, write a will. There are instances when a man, even ten years after marriage, did not change the nominee in his Provident Fund account, and after his death, the poor widow with two children has to go and beg in front of uncooperative in-laws.
Keep a small diary or note-book. Write all your bank details, insurance policy details, assets details, gold details, etc., in that diary. Your stock options, mutual fund portfolio details, your pension details, property papers, bank lockers – everything should be written in that diary. Invest a day or two in writing them down.
This will save many months of misery for your rightful heirs. The easiest way of transferring your assets to your loved ones is by having them as a joint holder in your assets. Make your spouse a joint holder in your bank account, your mutual fund investments, insurance investments, bank lockers, physical assets, and demat accounts. This is the easiest way of transferring your assets to the kin you love. To make life simpler, you can add your children also in those holdings. After one is gone, just by producing a death certificate, the assets can be transferred. No court orders needed. No taxes to be payed. No probates needed.
Please fill up the nomination column in your financial papers. In case both the parents pass away and the nomination sections are empty, you are creating a big problem for your children. If you have more than one child, please write in what percentage you want to give away and to whom. The financial intermediary will act upon your wishes after you are gone.
Our children are now global citizens working in all parts of the world. Please don’t accumulate mindless property in the hope of them coming back. A property is an asset which is very difficult to manage or maintain or sell, especially for children who don’t live nearby. And if you want to give away your assets to someone who is not your legal heir, better do it in your lifetime. You don’t want your departure to be the beginning of a dispute. Believe me, title disputes are ugly, never-ending cancers, and you don’t want your next generation to inherit it.