As seniors, most of us have led a full life and discharged all our responsibilities and hence should be ready to leave when our time comes. Undoubtedly Life is a Journey to Death, but not all of us are prepared to accept it right away. Losing a soulmate is a devastating experience that can strike at any time. The grief is profound, the trauma is such that we may feel that it is impossible to survive and the grieving process is never truly over. Yet, the art of life is a constant readjustment to our situations and surroundings and we need to channelise the grief into something productive. The physical absence of our loved ones should not in any way diminish the values instilled by them and we should try to carry on their legacy.
The immediate aspects of the loss can be multi-fold – emotional, financial, logistical and social. I am sure you would have listened to a well articulated podcast of Mr. Krishnan, where he has analysed the changes, trauma and the hopelessness the bereaved undergo on the loss of a loved one and also how one can cope with the grief.
Having been recently widowed, I have experienced the most stressful aspects of bereavement which arise while getting down to brass tacks after the formal mourning is over. In most households, the person who passed away had been managing the finances of the household and making all important decisions and running the house, so to say. In his absence, if the details a family needs to know are not readily available, it adds to the stress and hopelessness and the survivor feels having been left high and dry. It is as cumbersome as collecting strewn bits and pieces to solve a jigsaw puzzle. The paper work related to transferring the assets etc., in the name of the survivor is tedious, mind boggling and exasperating. Many a time, when both the husband and wife have independent sources of income, and they wish to maintain secrecy of their bank accounts, investments etc., and when tragedy strikes, the survivor is clueless as to how to go about managing them.
It may be pertinent to list the things we may keep ready so that should calamity strike, the survivor(s) need not face difficulty in the process of transition.
It is always desirable that a diary or file be maintained wherein all that the family needs to know in case of an exigency, may be noted and kept up to date. It is extremely essential to document details of all our assets, liabilities, bank accounts, title deeds of the house, property taxes paid, gas, electricity and telephone connections, debit/credit cards, locker keys, insurance policies, contact numbers of our doctors, relatives and friends, passwords etc., and inform the next of kin where these are kept so that when we are no more, they will not be inconvenienced trying to locate them. Details of any liabilities should also be noted down.
It is also a good practice to draw up a simple will witnessed by two persons, which need not even be registered. In the case of bank accounts and investments, the importance of nomination cannot be over-emphasised. It must however be remembered that the Nominee cannot claim ownership of the money, because if the legal heir so chooses, it can be contested. The role of the Nominee is similar to the Executor of a Will. The above list of things the family should know is just illustrative and not exhaustive as it will differ from person to person.
From my past experience, I would like to point out two things which I think are very important. Most of us hold credit cards and in all probability, one person in the family is the Primary cardholder and the other is an Add-on cardholder. If the primary card holder dies and the bank is informed about it, the card will be immediately deactivated and the add-on card holder cannot use it, but has to pay off the credit card dues by the next billing cycle. If the add-on card holder is past the age of 70, he is not entitled to a new credit card. So it would be a good bye to all the lounge accesses and benefits. Another issue is related to claiming insurance if the deceased had been hospitalised and had not opted for cashless insurance, or if the hospital does not feature in the list of the insurance company. In the hurry to settle the bill, we tend to overlook the need for a detailed statement of the hospital charges on a day-to-day basis and leave the hospital with a single page discharge summary. Unless the detailed bill is submitted, reimbursement of the same is very difficult.
A Death Report and a Death Summary have to be collected from the hospital, for obtaining the Death Certificate and these will also be needed at the Crematorium. Two photographs of the deceased as well as his/or her Aadhaar Card and a copy will also be required at the crematorium. While obtaining the Death Certificate will not be delayed, issuing the Legal Heir Certificate is time consuming and it is suggested that an application for it may be submitted simultaneously.
Life is full of moments, big and small. Some hurt, while some feel great. We need to embrace them all to make ourselves strong. We all die, the goal is not to live forever, but to do or create something which will live forever. The way forward would be to strive for emotional well- being. On the financial front, proper planning needs to be done so that the same standard of living can be maintained. A new will has to be drawn up and all assets properly documented. Income tax returns too need to be filed on behalf of the deceased, and as per norms, the PAN card has to be surrendered. Title Transfer of house property and all the relative utility services such as electricity, telephone need to be attended to and cannot be postponed indefinitely.
In the process, we will rediscover ourselves and start living as we would want to, rather than how others would expect us to live. Life and emotional landscapes change enormously and these changes may sometimes even last a lifetime. It is therefore, necessary to make peace within ourselves. While it is impossible to retrieve yesterday, tomorrow is fraught with uncertainty. We need to make the best of TODAY which we have. There should be no “IF” brooding – ‘Only if I could have done this or done that’ – when there is no chance of it to ever happen, why keep harping on it? We need to celebrate the life of our loved one by honouring the interests and values which have been left behind as their legacy.
Life goes on and so must we go with it. We also need to love and respect ourselves as we are an entity in ourselves and by Embracing Life and moving on, can cherish fond memories for all times.
I have only tried to present the practical sides of coping with grief on the basis of my experiences and cannot claim expertise in the same. I felt sharing this information, for the benefit of others. I hope I have been successful in reaching out.
by Mrs Revathi Bhasker, resident of Covai S3 Retirement Community
Reblog – originally published as a podcast at CovaiVani