My memories around Alistair’s death (4)
By Kathy Martin…
This time I will continue with how I coped, with more than a little help from my friends, to get through dealing with all the procedures and forms!
After I had written my experience of becoming a widow here in Northern Cyprus, I realised there is so much information that I felt important to share for anyone who is unfortunate enough to find themselves in the same situation.
When Sasha (my daughter), Jon (son-in-law) and Alex (11 year old grandson) returned to the UK on Saturday 7th November I began to face up to my new life living on my own.
The first thing I had to do was phone the UK State Pension 00 44 191 218 7777 and inform them. I was told that Alistair’s pension would stop with immediate effect and if they would send me a form (what I called the “Widow’s benefit form from hell”, more about dealing with this later) to complete, as my own UK State Pension doesn’t start until I am 63½ on 8th November 2016
I was told that as I had correctly answered (during my telephone conversation) all the security questions i.e. mine and Alistair’s Date of Birth, our National Insurance (NI) numbers, they would not need to see a copy of his Death Certificate.
The “Widow’s benefit form from hell” was posted to Sasha, in Wales as post is so unreliable for some of us expats here (we have always used Sasha’s address for our UK Bank and all our pension companies). Sasha forwarded the “Widow’s benefit form from hell” to a PO Box in South Cyprus that a good friend had allowed me to use. Completing it will come later!
The next call was to Alistair’s company pension. Both the call handlers I dealt with at the State Pensions and Alistair’s company were extremely sensitive to the problems I was having talking through the tears. The company pension needed the original wedding certificate and the original death certificate. However, when I explained that we were married in Bulawayo, Rhodesia in 1976 and if I lost the original it would be IMPOSSIBLE to replace they were happy for me to send certified copies of the marriage certificate and the death certificate, which I assured them would be in English.
Also, put a message on our UK Bank’s internet banking message site informing them of Alistair’s death, as we had a joint bank account there was no problem for me taking money out, but they needed a certified copy of his death certificate, in English, so they could change the account from a joint one to a single one. I had to phone them and again the call handler was very sympathetic, as I broke down and cried.
The next ordeal was obtaining the death certificate. Tim Harris, from the excellent British Cemetery committee was very helpful in advising me, the best piece of advice he gave me was to find an English speaking Turkish Cypriot who would be happy to help me! I managed to go one better. Through a plea I put on my Facebook page a wonderful friend, (changed her name to Freda, to protect the innocent, otherwise she may find herself inundated with requests for help) came to my rescue. On 13th November, she drove me to Lefkoşa, where we picked up an English speaking Turkish-Cypriot friend of hers (will call her Pembe) who was able to direct Freda, who was driving, around the maze of streets to find out what was needed.
We all went into the first office where they told us we had to get a form from the Lefkoşa State hospital area’s Muhtar (like the senior city councillor). Pembe went into his office on her own and when she returned, she told us the bad news that he was in Turkey, just as I was about to burst into floods of tears, she swiftly said that luckily he had left a deputy who had given her the necessary signed form!
My tears were very close to the surface all the time! We returned to the first office, but as I walk with a stick, they had told Pembe on our first visit that I could stay in the car. Freda went in with Pembe to ensure I was given Turkish and English Certificates. The gratitude I felt for these two lovely ladies, Freda and Pembe, is impossible to express fully.
Once I had the death certificate, went and saw Nesrin Argün, my Customer Representative, at Creditwest bank and as a bank official she was acceptable to certify both our wedding certificate and Alistair’s death certificate.
The big mistake I made was not to find someone flying to the UK, because the envelopes to Alistair’s Pension Company and to my UK bank were posted, registered post from here, and took about 3 weeks to reach their destinations!
Carole Lloyd, whose husband Rod died in April 2012, asked me if I was aware I had to cancel his passport, no, I was not aware!! It would never have occured to me that to cancel his UK passport. Zoe from British High Commission in Nicosia emailed me a standard document, which tells you what to do to register a death abroad. She assured me that I did NOT have to pay to register Alistair’s death in the UK, as the document stated. She, also, emailed me the necessary form for cancelling the passport. I went to my favourite internet cafe and printed it out. Zoe very kindly met me at the Doğanköy coffee shop (she lives in the next village of Ozanköy), took it to the British High Commission in Nicosia, where she cancelled it and returned it to me a couple of days later.
Now – the Widow’s benefit form from hell”
It is 24 pages long and as I type this I have a photocopy of it next to me. The important questions like where you want the money paid where on a form headed “International Pensions Direct Payment”, which as I have a UK bank I crossed out and wrote “UK”! They needed my address, so I wrote my daughter’s address in Wales with HUGE capital letters saying “POSTAL”! I had to amend a couple of International Bank parts to UK and wrote my UK account number in the IBAN section and my sort code in the BIC section. I ticked to be paid 4 weekly rather than every 13 weeks.
Then one gets to the Widow’s benefit form from hell for real
Address, so again I emphasised that I did NOT want them to post to my address in Doğanköy. Wanted my birth certificate – wrote that I would send a certified copy of all forms as I was NOT going to risk losing them in the postal system.
Wanted any addresses you have lived in with dates! Luckily, I could remember two, dates were a bit dodgy, but had no idea about the third address’ dates and Post Code!
My previous employment – by this stage I was getting very panicky!
Alistair’s information starts; easy dates etc; again wrote in CAPITALS: “CERTIFIED COPIES OF ALL DOCUMENTS will be sent, not originals”.
Wanted any addresses Alistair’s have lived in! Felt like writing as we were married look at page 4!
They asked for his Reference Number at this stage I was ready to bin the form; later on I discovered they meant his NI number – so I wrote why didn’t you say that!!
Now getting serious – Previous employment – dates started and ended, job title and works number NO IDEA apart from name of companies!
Soner told me to write: As you have Alistair’s NI number, surely you have this information!
Pages 10 and 11
Dates your partner lived abroad – NO IDEA!!
Pages 13 to 18
Now we get to the page that had me throwing the form away!!
- Have you been in hospital – Yes
- Name of Hospital Could remember, found closed in 1994 (thanks Google)
- Ward name or number – NO IDEA
- Address + Post code – NO IDEA – No longer exists
- Date in – cannot remember other than I watched Diana Spencer marry Prince Charles!
- Date out – spent about 3 months!
Use this space to give us any more information. I wrote
NEVER expected to hear from them again!
I signed the form
The evening, after I had attempted to fill this in, I was very lucky to meet up with the wonderful Soner Kioufi and his lovely wife Kam, during the course of our meal I told them about the form and how I was reduced to floods of tears and shouting at Alistair’s picture “Why did you have to die and leave me to fill in this form from hell!“. Soner assured me that the department would have all our details and they were just trying to get me to do their work for them. He suggested googling the hospital, as I remembered it’s name and finding the date it closed, so I could put that on the form. He did agree that he couldn’t understand why they would need this hospital information!
The following day I told Karen Gallagher, who is the manager at DVD Shop in Çatalköy, (also, a very good friend) and she backed up everything Soner had said.
Thanks to their advice, in due course, I was awarded a weekly sum, which will be paid until my State Pension kicks in.