In our culture and social upbringing, we tend not to talk about finances, especially between spouses. In the traditional middle class family, a wife will feel embarrassed to ask her husband about his bank matters and the husband will not think it important to share it with her. If she is a workingwoman, she will probably have her own account.
Whatever the case is, in this day and age it is simply imperative that spouses are aware of each other's financial matters and the days of being shy about asking should be forgotten. When I say financial matters, I do not mean bank accounts only, I mean all kinds of financial dealings.
There are so many growing cases where the husband has passed away all of a sudden and the poor wife is left at the mercy of family members, clueless about the husband's assets and liabilities!
When matters came to light, outstanding loans showed up and the banks are obviously not going to have any mercy to make things easy for a bereaved widow.
There could be collateral to the loans but all details were left unknown and often the spouse was not interested in knowing these details. The home you live in, which you thought was your own, turns out to be mortgaged to a bank for another outstanding loan.
Sadly the above happens, and happens often. Many a time relatives materialise with claims to property, money, etc.
Having experienced the plight of close acquaintances, I strongly feel that a 'structured document' of all financial matters be drawn up with the help of a lawyer. Nothing should be concealed and the whole matter discussed in detail with the spouse ensuring her full understanding and what actions she needs to take in the demise of her husband.
It should be remembered that this is important not only for the wife's sake, but for the children too.
Just being a nominee of accounts is not sufficient, one has to be aware if there are lockers holding important documents, the spouse should be a joint signatory to the lockers and if a house or apartment is owned, the deed should be known to her and the formalities attached to it.
This is a cruel world when it comes to financial matters and once the grieving period is over reality sets in. You need to get your succession certificate in order to enable you to access the bank accounts. You will find things are so much easier if all the information is known to you (and your children if any) from before – the 'structured document' I mentioned earlier will help you through.