There are certain topics that are taboo in everyday conversation. Religion, politics, and of course, money. It’s uncomfortable to discuss finances with friends and family, and it’s an even worse topic to confront when tragedy strikes, such as a family death. No one wants to think about what would happen if a parent dies or becomes incapacitated but coming to terms with how to handle the financial aspect of it all ahead of time will help make that transition easier in the end.
Most people don’t realize until faced with the daunting challenge of allocating money their parents left behind, but those in older generations did not always keep the most detailed financial accounts. What can be done when Dad never consolidated his assets, or set up any form of electronic banking? What happens when you find that Mom had several different brokers and no contact information to get ahold of them?
The good news? This is a common problem. Someone in your friend group or family or even workplace will have experience in this area. But from managing an ailing parents’ investments to establishing an income safety net for the spouse they leave behind, there is no better resource than your financial advisor. No one has more of a vested interest in helping you manage those assets in the most beneficial way to YOUR life. Advisors can also teach you how to track down and manage your parents’ assets without trying to brave it alone.
You know your parents as well as anyone. Ideally, they kept organized financial records that are easy to find. However, because previous generations didn’t have easy access to today’s financial software and readily available apps, they may not have conveniently centralized records of their accounts, policies, and important legal documents.
If you’ve sifted through all the documentation you could find and are still coming up short, consider these tips:
- Review all existing mail for statements/bills
- See if they have a safe deposit box at their bank
- Contact their past employers to see if they know of any pensions or retirement plans that were held, or if they had life insurance through the company
- Check unclaimed property lists in every state where your parent had lived; states collect and hold unclaimed deposits and accounts
- Look for bank accounts, bonds, stocks, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, dividend or payroll checks, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, safe deposit box contents, and securities and utility deposits held by financial institutions or holding companies
A critical factor in the case of compiling these documents is time, which is another area in which a financial advisor would be beneficial. If an account is unused for more than a year, the assets therein are considered dormant or abandoned. This could result in missing out on claiming well-hidden assets, which may eventually become property of the state where those accounts are domiciled in a process known as escheat.2 Utilizinga financial advisor as soon as possible helps to ensure that loss doesn’t happen.
Unsure where to start looking for unclaimed property? The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators sponsored a site for just such an occasion: www.unclaimed.org. “Unclaimed” is a free website that allows you to search for unclaimed property held by each state. If you’re unsure which states your parent may have resided in, www.MissingMoney.com can conduct a search on a national scale.
For anything outside of the realm of standard searches, forensic accounts may be a viable option. You may have heard of these accountants on TV shows where they are often depicted as people who uncover offshore accounts, shell companies, and other shady financial accounting practices. While that does fall under their umbrella, the basic job of a forensic accountant is to conduct a thorough investigation into someone’s assets to find accounts that may not have been shared with family – intentional or otherwise. An example of this documentation could be an IRS transcript that shows 1099-DIVs and 1099-INTs issued to your parent at some point 30 years ago. The point is, forensic accountants know all sorts of methods that you may not have considered.
Before you overload yourself with information, remember that there are people out there with the tools and know-how to sort everything out. This may be overwhelming – and understandably so – but a financial advisor in Bucks County job is to make all the uncomfortable stuff comfortable for you. Give us a call when times get rough, and we can help – you don’t have to go through this alone.
Roberta Codemo. Legal Zoom. “How to Recover Unclaimed Inheritance Money.” https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/how-to-recover-unclaimed-inheritance-money. Accessed July 18, 2019.
National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. “Start your free search for money that might be due you.” https://www.unclaimed.org. Accessed July 18, 2019.
MissingMoney.com. “What to expect.” http://www.MissingMoney.com. Accessed July 18, 2019.
Investopedia. April 25, 2019. “Forensic Accounting.” https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/forensicaccounting.asp. Accessed July 18, 2019.
The Wealthy Accountant. Aug. 16, 2017. “Forensic Accounting: The High-Paying Part-Time Business.” https://wealthyaccountant.com/2017/08/16/forensic-accounting-the-high-paying-part-time-business/. Accessed July 18, 2019.
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