Posted in Women & Family

A Ready Reference Handbook For Every Family

This International Woman’s Day Cultivate Awareness Ladies! Because Ignorance Is NOT Bliss!!

On Women’s Day March 8th, this is what I want every Indian woman to know: where exactly she stands and what is the corresponding status of her family in case of any unforeseen eventuality/emergency crisis. Well, I am not talking about something we are all totally unaware of. In fact, quite a few of us must have put into practice something like what I am going to suggest herein. I am blogging this piece for those who have not yet been as thoughtful.

So this is a winding post, I must caution but I hope it is worth a quick browsing.

An expat Indian worker died in service with his currency balances locked into foreign bank accounts in Middle East. That was when his wife (and the rest of us) came to know, there are no nomination facilities in this part of the world. The balance (that was substantial) in her spouse’s account stood to be frozen and later transferred to a welfare fund (that keeps swelling owing to many such an unfortunate and untimely death). The couple did not share a joint account and the lady did not know the card details of her husband either. The sudden demise of the head of the family dealt them a twin blow: emotional as well as financial.  Overnight the family found themselves at the mercy of others, having been denied access to what rightfully belonged to them. With school going children and the woman being a housewife, it couldn’t have gotten worse.

This is an eye-opener for all of us out there. A woman/mother/wife/daughter needs to know what is going on with the man of her life. I would suggest, it is imperative for even the children getting to know what is the family position.

The following is a check-list I am trying to make up. It is better if both spouses share all issues among themselves. They say, making hard copy and maintaining one is risky. I guess, it is a must to have a hardcopy, like a summary of all our savings and investments. Such a physical evidence can be taken care of personally the way we handle our passports and IDs for instance with diligent care.

Make a hard copy like a Diary with following entries (even if you have gone green completely) for the sake of your beloved ones. Who knows when it should come in handy (God forbid). Educate your younger children on the relevance and drop a hint where in the event of any unforeseen accident or health issues, they could find help in financial matters. If the children are over 18, include them in family discussions. Let them get the complete picture, it is high time.

A HANDBOOK  OF REFERENCE FOR MAINTENANCE OF FAMILY RECORDS/ACCOUNTS 

INDEX I

What the Hard Copy of Handwritten Diaries and Back-up of Soft Copies like saved Mails/Hard Discs/Pen Drives must contain:

  1. Make a list of all your bank accounts: SB (savings bank), NRI (non resident Indian), RD (recurring deposit), FD (fixed deposit) etc. Include the Account name, Number, Bank address, Debit/Credit card number, PIN, the 3 digit CVV code, the Internet Banking User ID, Password, Transaction Password, Registered Mobile No., Registered Mail ID, Phone Banking Code, Phone banking password. Update the Relationship Manager’s phone number everytime for quick access. This will enable your family to operate your account in distress situations when they could be facing crunch of funds.
  2. Make sure your register NOMINATIONS for all your bank accounts. In India, one can still go for Legal Heir Certificate and Succession Certificate,  even if it is mandatory to register nominations in the first place. Update your nominations when your relationship status changes. That is, when you marry, you may update the legal nominee as your spouse and the second nominee as your kid (minor or major) etc. For each bank account you make a list of, add the nominee names in the diary.
  3. PF (provident fund) accounts have to have nominations. Make sure you share the PF account and nomination details with your family through the diary.
  4. Make a list of your other liquid assets such as Shares in Equity Markets, Mutual Funds, Bonds etc. This is no more possible in physical form. Share your Demat account details with passwords in the diary you keep. Update password everytime you change it.
  5. Make a list of your Immovable Properties/Real Estate investments. List them one by one as per order of value and importance. Let each entry include, a detailed description of the property as to whether it is a parcel of land/plot or house/flat with complete address. Include the distinctive property ID, the date of registration, the address of the registrar’s office, the Patta No., the registered document no., the latest EC (encumbrance certificate no.) and in which spouse name it is registered.
  6. Make a list of your Life Insurance policies. Update it on every premium subscription. Let the recordings include the date of maturity and premium amount. Include riders if any on the policies like Critical Illness apart from death benefit. This is very important. Now that we pay premiums online, add the User ID to log in to the insurers’ website with password. Save the premium receipts online either in mail boxes or in your computer. If you are in touch with your agent, include his/her phone number.
  7. Do not forget to file nominations for each and every of your life insurance policies.
  8. Make a list of the Health Insurance policies of the family members with renewal dates and amount covered. Most urban Indians hold cashless Medical insurance policies in which case, let the health cards be kept at an easily accessible and retrievable place of safety. Let the children know about the cards. Do not forget to renew health insurance every year when it is due. It could come handy if any of us should suffer a sudden heart attack or stroke or accident or such misfortune or mishap. However young the kids could be, they must be educated about the health policies and must be told about the health insurance cards for cashless and spot hospitalization. As health policies are also payable online, save the relevant mails in separate e-folders.
  9. Let your children know your health conditions: whether you suffer from lifestyle diseases such as Blood Pressure, Diabetes or Cholesterol or heart condition etc.  Write down your prescription medicines and dosages clearly mentioning at what intervals they must be taken. Please include details of drugs allergic to you. A short gist of previous history can also be included. Give the name of your doctor/hospital/consultant with address and phone number.
  10. Make a list of Vaccination histories thoroughly for each family member and update each new vaccine administered.
  11. Libel Suits if any also have to be brought to the attention of your children. Please do not leave any ugly surprise for them. Give details of your attorney and make a gist of the pending cases.
  12. Make a list of your Vehicles with their Insurances (with renewal date), RC book, Road tax details. Note down the phone number of your Car/Bike insurance agent and office.
  13. Make a page for jotting down all of your Driving Licence numbers – be it for bike or car. Add the renewal dates.
  14. Create a page for details of your PAN (Permanent Assessment Number) cards (for all adults in the family over the age of 21 years).
  15. Note down the details of your Ration (PDS) cards with zone number, serial number, issuing office, circle.
  16. It is now important to list even our Aadhar cards with distinctive individual ID numbers.
  17. Both spouses must be able to operate all Bank Lockers (the contents of which could be hinted to your children if they are minor). Ask your kid to sign for joint bank locker operation the day he/she turns 18. Take your adult children to banks and demonstrate to them the locker procedure. Introduction to ATM can be by pre-teen years.  Maintain a record of your annual visits for reference even if you sign in the bank register.
  18. Make a list of Bank Locker contents briefly.
  19. A page mentioning the Bank Locker numbers is important. Let your know children where the bank locker keys are in safe-keeping at home.
  20. If you have a Will registered, let your legal heirs know of its existence. If there is no animosity/conflict of interests in the family, I see no reason to keep it hidden. Let them know where to find the will (whether it is safekept in bank locker or at home).
  21. Make a gist of Property Taxes paid. What corporation circle, zone. What is the property ID. Tax amount, paid upto which date. Update Corporation official phone number if possible. Now that the taxes are paid online, add the Login ID applicable for the corporation website with password for easy access. Make sure to save the paid receipts in e-folders either in your mail box or in computer or both.
  22. Make a list of Water taxes, Sewage taxes paid with details of corporation zone/circle and property ID. Add the Internet Login ID with password. Save the electronic receipts.
  23. A Jewelry list is a must. If you hold the purchases receipt, please note down the value of your gold/diamond ornaments. The jewelry list can include diamond, gold, silver, other precious stones and any other valuable ornament piece/articles.
  24. Do you have a House insurance. Share the details in case of theft, fire etc.
  25. Any debtors/creditors the family must know about
  26. Details of Pension policies with or without death benefits with maturity details. Remember to record your nomination for the policies.
  27. School/University certificates – date of registration/graduation, serial number, issuing authority etc.
  28. Work details like original Appointment letters, letters of appreciation and other service records
  29. Antique collections of any value with description
  30. Passport details updated periodically
  31. Have you delegated Power to anyone and registered the same? Details of Power vested in who, when, valid upto when must be entered. Are you standing in as POA (power of attorney) for anyone. Details please.
  32. LPG details with Consumer No., LPG agent number and contact phone and address
  33. Loan details. Housing loan/car loan EMIs, names of the banks/lenders, tenure of the loan(s), pre-closure if any, part-payment made etc.
  34. Land line phones/Mobile phones – connection/user name details.
  35. And awww, as a typical NRI on and off for last few years I have omitted including filing of your Income Tax Returns!!!  Most important of all in India! Make an entry everytime with brief particulars.
  36. Any Fines/Penalties paid? Make a list.

It is wise to prepare both soft copies and hard copies of the important particulars and mail them to your spouse/children IN GOOD FAITH. Hopefully we all are blessed with sweet kids not wayward ones. Trust is the main factor. If there is a trust deficit in the family, kindly do not share. Instead, details can be listed in the diary and the existence of the diary could be confided to someone trustworthy – with information of finding it where should any emergency arise.

Children need not be revealed the complete details either. It is sufficient if they are told about the diary and where to find it in times of sudden crisis.  Sons and daughters over 18 must be shown the book/diary/record and given a soft copy of their own.

Don’t take the secrets to your grave leaving your family stranded.  Weaving one’s way through legal tangles is a messy and long drawn-out affair. A drain of our time and energy. Rather than bereaving for the departed, the legal heirs could be cursing the spirits for making it hard for them!

Make 1 or 2 hard copy diaries and store them in your Godrej almirah or any other steel safe in the house which is fire-resistant.  Lock up one in your bank locker. Let your kids and spouse know about it.

Send the soft copy to your family members and ask them to save it with password protection. The same can also be stored in hard disc/pen drives out of reach of others who are not family.

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The Financial Security of a family lies principally in mutual and trustworthy sharing of information and proper planning.

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INDEX II

What should you put away in Bank Lockers:

  1. We Indians mostly reserve bank lockers for stashing gold/diamond jewelry. Now that property values have appreciated to sky levels in our cities, it is prudent to use the lockers first for safe-keeping your legal documents. If you can afford bigger size lockers, get them to put away safety the property files in proper order. File each property document neatly in individual labelled folder with brief description detailed on the front fly. This will make it easier for the legal heirs to retrieve papers, if it comes to that. Use different folders for each property. Let every folder include the original registered document with all other originals like the Patta and EC.
  2. All original Life Insurance and Health Insurance policies
  3. Original Pension policies and PF originals
  4. FD originals (if any) but these are mostly soft copies only now
  5. Any other legal paper pertaining to pending court cases
  6. Original School/University certificates
  7. Original Employment certificates
  8. Original car RC book, life time tax receipt etc. Make sure to change/update this folder every time you switch your car/bike.
  9. Any other original bank documents /share certificates etc if any
  10. Loan documents if any – property or car (original signed) with original receipts for pre-closures/part-payments
  11. Original POA if you are representing legally anyone and attested copies in case you have issued POA to any party
  12. One hardcopy of handwritten diary with the afore mentioned paritculars neat and legible as listed in Index I
  13. Finally if there is space remaining in your lockers, you may use it for stashing jewelry that you seldom wear!

Make a habit of recording physically your daily expenses if you have not so far. Let it be in Excel sheet if that’s how you may want it. 

An Excel sheet, by the way, is a precise and scientific method of maintaining family records like real estate holdings and bank account details.

INDEX III

What you must have at home in Steel Safe:

  1. Copies of all the above mentioned documents/papers you put into Bank Lockers. Just like in bank lockers, make a file folder for each entry separately. The only difference should be that, the bank lockers contain the originals whereas the steel safe at home has the photocopies. In short, copies of all listings under Index II.
  2. Bank locker keys in a distinctive pouch that the children must know about with numbers of the lockers clearly earmarked
  3. Minimal jewelry
  4. Taxes paid if any. Online taxes are applicable only in last 7-8 years. If you have any hardcopies from the past, put them away in bank lockers and store at home their photocopies. For property/water/sewage taxes paid – store the print-outs if you take one. I don’t.
  5. Original passports with multiple copies
  6. Original Ration cards with good number of photo copies
  7. Original Aadhar cards with good number of photo copies
  8. Copies of School/University certificates
  9. Copies of Employment certificates
  10. Old Salary certificates
  11. Copies of loan documents
  12. Copies of POA issued/standing in for
  13. Original Health Insurances Policies and Cashless Medical Insurance Cards
  14. Vaccination Records original
  15. Other Health/Medical records like previous histories/hospitalization 
  16. Original Driving Licences with good number of photo copies
  17. Copies of RC book of your car/bike and Life Road Tax paid
  18. Original car/bike insurance with third party cover plus some copies
  19. Passport size photos of all family members – multiple copies
  20. Original LPG booklet with copies, and one or two latest LPG refill receipts if possible
  21. Vacation ownership holdings – with copies
  22. Warranties of electronics, kitchen equipment, furniture etc
  23. Land line/Mobile phone connection Customer ID number/details
  24. Satellite tv subscription details
  25. AMC contract details for Water Purifier, Air Conditioner, Pest Control etc
  26. Lift Insurance/AMC details (if applicable)
  27. Maintenance charges records (in case of apartment residents)
  28. Club subscriptions
  29. Details of School/College fees paid with original receipts
  30. Any other substantial payment made/remittance received
  31. Original receipts of Fines/Penalties paid
  32. Rental receipts
  33. Original Agreements with copies made
  34. Income Tax Returns filed
  35. One hard copy of handwritten diary of all the listed items under Index I

It is better to file the details in separate individual folders with flaps briefing on the contents for ready reference and easy access. I prefer this method to huge box office files.

The keys to your steel safe must be kept in place known to your spouse and children but at the same time inaccessible to house maids/drivers/repairs persons/frequent visitors/relatives and guests.

Workings wives MUST share details with their husbands and housewives do have a right to know what the family stands to lose if faced with emergency crisis. I don’t see why children over 18 years should be excluded from sharing family particulars either. Under-aged minors can be briefed and told about the diary and precocious ones can be let into the ‘inner circle.’

Finally it is all for the family. Not many Indians are aware that an Indian male can leave more than one direct legal heir: his wife, his children and his mother. Bitter family disputes have since made the government and our banks strictly enforce the nomination facility. Unfortunately quite a few Indian men are in the habit of keeping their women in the dark when it comes to their economic standing.

Women’s Empowerment?

Ladies, you have every right to get the correct picture of your financial standings. If you have been kept away from these very important and necessary family details, demand to know of them. Educate your children and bring in an awareness. Maintain meticulous, systematic records in chronological order. Your future generations will thank you!

CAUTION FOR NRIs. 

How many of you are aware that nomination facilities are unavailable in some countries like in Middle-East for instance. Please repatriate your savings to mother country in that case for your own sake and the sake of your family, leaving a safe margin for comfortable living in the host country where you are a temporary guest (as employee). Share all account details with Internet Login ID, ATM password etc with your spouse and grown-up children.

Keep your loan commitments to the minimum even if foreign banks offer you attractive lendings at very reasonable rates of interests. Remember these are constraining traps which can prevent you from leaving the port of your employment at your will anytime you wish.

May there never arise an emergency situation in your life! But it is better to stay prepared in case of any eventuality, is it not.

How many diaries to make:

One for the Bank Locker, One for the Steel Safe at Home and One for handy reference that you can tuck into wardrobe for instance – for easy retrieval. It may be prudent to include even your e-mail IDs and passwords. But please take care that the sensitive records stay out the eyes and reach of any/all outsiders other than family members. Minors like under-aged kids can be hinted about the diary whereas the adults must have 100% awareness.

Soft copies to be password protected and saved in mail boxes in registered E-mail IDs or in Computer/Hard Discs/Pen Drives. Preserve them the way you take care of your physical IDs and Passports. Stay alert.

Before writing this up, I did reflect on the sensitivity of the information we could be sharing in diaries/soft copies. Is it worth the risk. I guess it is, because online transfers are safer with OTP (one time password)s generated with every single transaction in your registered mobile number. Still it will be prudent to exercise due caution and keep the material out of reach of anyone other than trusted intimate family members.