In 1945, two brothers, Jacob and Samuel, were rescued from the Nazi extermination camp of Buchenwald. The rest of their family had been killed. The brothers joined other refugees that left Europe after World War II. Jacob came to the United States, became an engineer, and worked many years for a major corporation. Samuel immigrated to Australia and became an accountant.
Several years ago, Jacob died. He had never married. Samuel — by now quite elderly —came to the United States to settle Jacob’s affairs. What he found was financial chaos. Jacob had always lived frugally and invested widely. Unfortunately, he kept very poor records. Samuel spent several weeks rummaging through files, boxes, drawers, and even under couch pillows trying to gather together all the certificates, statements, and even uncashed dividend checks that Jacob had left behind. We will never be certain that all of Jacobs’s assets have been located.
Few people leave behind as chaotic a financial tangle as Jacob did, but I find that more than half of the people I advise after a death are not certain that they can identify all of a deceased’s investment assets.
The first lesson from this example is this: DO NOT KEEP STOCK OR BOND CERTIFICATES AT HOME OR IN A SAFE DEPOSIT BOX. KEEP ALL FINANCIAL ASSETS IN BROKERAGE ACCOUNTS.
Modern brokerage accounts now allow access via checkbook, electronic funds transfer (EFT) and charge cards. Have all dividends and interest payments deposited in your account; and, if you need cash, you may write a check. There is no reason for your heirs to search through your papers to find uncashed dividend checks.
As people get older, financial advisors and estate planning attorneys often advise clients to consolidate their assets. This is sound advice and greatly simplifies the job of managing an estate at death.
It is often possible to consolidate assets — even mutual funds that you have bought outside of a brokerage account — with a single financial advisor or team of advisors. This has the advantage of giving your financial advisor a better view of your assets and thus providing more comprehensive plans and advice. It also makes it easier for the surviving spouse or heirs to identify your investment assets.
Investment accounts with brokerage firms, money managers, and mutual funds typically make up the bulk of the assets of most families. It is not unusual for a family to have multiple accounts.
Be sure to make a list of your investment accounts. You may use that investment section of the workbook to do so.
From BEFORE I GO by Arie Korving. Available at Amazon.