Before the Will, prepare for disability | Business Standard Column

Clipped from: https://www.business-standard.com

It’s important for all heirs to present a united front to give comfort to banks/depository participants

A close friend, Sunil, went through a rather harrowing time in 2016. His 83-year old father was hospitalised after a massive stroke. While prompt medical attention ensured his survival, his bodily functions were severely impacted. Forget speech, he was not able to communicate properly. His cognition was severely impacted though he was still able to recognise Sunil, his elder sister Shristi, their kids and some close friends.

Sunil’s experience holds lessons for all of us. Sunil’s father was a widower and financially independent. Sunil and Shristi were the only heirs. His assets were held in his own name, but he had no­m­­inations in place. Even his ph­o­n­e number and email id were registered with banks and the de­p­o­sitory participant. He had debit cards for all his bank acco­u­n­ts. He had also made his Will and registered it. In other words, he was well prepared for any eventuality.

But Sunil’s family had a harrowing time. For starters, the doctors asked the family to decide whether ventilator or other artificial life-maintenance systems could be used, if the need arose. In the absence of any instruction, it was a gut-wrenching few hours before the family authorised doctors to do whatever was needed.

Even after being discharged, he needed continuous care. So, Sunil and his sister had to access his bank accounts and Demat accounts to take care of costs. “Though we were nominees, we could not access the accounts,” says Sunil. However, they found that in such situations, close relatives/heirs can approach the high court to be appointed as guardians. But it was a time-consuming and expensive process.

Luckily since his father had not lost all his faculties, easier avenues were available. First, Sunil took charge of the phone and email id and discovered a power of attorney (PoA) his father had made a long time ago.

His father had three bank accounts. In the first private sector bank account, it was simple to activate the internet banking account and the debit card using his mobile number and email account. In the second private sector bank account, they approached the branch manager and explained the situation. The manager sent a bank officer to get his father’s thumb impression on a form adding their names as joint holders.

Similar approval was taken to activate Sunil’s signature as PoA holder in the Demat account. The third account was with a public sector bank, where things were again simple.

Lessons from the story? One, it’s important for all heirs to present a united front to give comfort to banks/depository participants.

“I have conveyed my views regarding the use of artificial life- maintenance methods, and also given a PoA to my spouse and registered it,” says Sunil. He has signed a few cheques (in his single name) and Demat slips in favour of his spouse. “I have given access to my email id and mobile to my spouse. This has downsides, but is invaluable if I am incapacitated.” Each person needs to make his own decision in such cases, but setting a mechanism is necessary.

The writer is a Sebi-registered investment advisor

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