Tag Archives: Recordkeeping

Consolidating your assets

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.


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.


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What happens to an on-line account when you die?

That’s a question few people ever consider.   But it’s one that is increasingly important.

On-line services like electronic bill-pay, shopping and social media are just too new.  I would want my spouse to be able to continue to pay bills electronically.  I would have no problem if someone wanted to look at my e-mail, Facebook or Twitter accounts.  But a recent Associated Press article pointed out that most companies “terms of service” agreements (those things that no one ever reads before clicking on the “I agree button”) prohibit anyone from accessing an account that isn’t theirs.

In fact, parents have been blocked from accessing their children’s Yahoo and Facebook accounts after their children’s unexpected deaths.

There may even be a great deal of value in on-line accounts.  Who ends up owning a picture collection, music files stored on-line or the digital files of a celebrity?  It’s a question that courts and legislators are beginning to address.

In the meantime, provide the people you trust with access to the accounts you want them to see in case of your death.  And don’t put things like account numbers and passwords in your will.  Wills are public records.

For more information about the records you should leave behind, click on the link for BEFORE I GO, and send for a copy of the workbook.

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Leaving Behind the Digital Keys to Financial Lives

At one time all of our important information arrived in the mail.  We received bills in the mail and sent payments in the mail.  We received paper statements from our financial institutions and sent checks or made deposits using paper checks.

No longer.

A lot of our communication is electronic.  Banks and investment firms encourage the use of electronic delivery of information because it saves them a lot of money and makes transactions much faster.  But what happens if you die or become incapacitated?   That’s becoming a big issue and it’s not being addressed by enough people.

From the NY Times:

BOB GINSBERG, a retired production manager for an educational publisher, is worried that he does not know any of the logins and passwords for online accounts belonging to his partner or brother and they do not know his.

At 72, he said his concern was not about Facebook or e-mail. It was for their financial lives, which have migrated online, making paper account statements anachronistic. Now, when people die without disclosing their financial affairs to anyone, there is often no paper trail for heirs to follow.

“You’d never know someone else’s financial arrangements, but if it was paperwork you’d have a clue,” Mr. Ginsberg said. “I’m entirely comfortable doing absolutely everything online. But if I have to take over for my brother or my partner, I don’t have any of their information.”

In its annual Wealth and Worth study, released this week, U.S. Trust said 45 percent of the high-net-worth people it polled had not organized passwords and account information for their digital lives in a place where heirs or an executor would find them. (By contrast, the bank said that 87 percent knew the location of important documents and most had a will.)

Much has been written about how family members struggle to get access to the e-mail and social network accounts of loved ones who have died. They have sentimental value much the way photo albums and personal letters do. But far less attention has been paid to the logins, passwords and answers to security questions that will give access to an online financial life.

In an era when far fewer records are kept on paper, spouses and children may not even know that some accounts exist. Think of savings accounts that are only online, or a rollover retirement account that hasn’t been touched in years.

“It’s not only something that needs to be addressed with an individual dying,” Chris Heilmann, chief fiduciary executive at U.S. Trust, said. “If an individual becomes incapacitated, people typically plan for someone to have a durable power of attorney so someone can step in and handle your affairs. But now you’re finding the attorney has to deal with your digital issues. They have to access your computer; they have to pay bills for you.”

Sharing the combination of letters or numbers that give access to a person’s most important financial details is turning out to be a lot harder than telling loved ones that everything they need to know is in a safe deposit box. What can people do?

We’re happy to say that we are ahead of the game.  We mailed all of our clients a copy of Before I Go and the Before I Go Workbook that covers this subject and many more.  If you want a copy, contact our firm at 757-638-5490, go to our website, or e-mail me at arie.korving@korvingco.com


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How long should you keep documents?

Do you ever wonder how long you should keep documents before you dispose of them?  Maureen Hook at the Hook Law Center provides some answers.

Here’s what Chase Bank recommends that you keep for the following periods of time:

One year – paycheck stubs, bills, credit card receipts, bank statements including cancelled checks. In some cases, a photocopy of the cancelled check attached to the bank statements has replaced the actual check, and this is perfectly acceptable. If needed for tax purposes, keep what is relevant for 7 years. An attorney, accountant, or financial advisor can make a recommendation for your particular circumstances.

Seven years – copies of monthly investment account statements, income tax returns, and any documents like receipts, cancelled checks, etc. that support income or tax deductions filed on tax returns and 1099 forms.

Hold while active – contracts, stock certificates, property tax records, warranties, disputed bills, pension and retirement plans, and home improvement records. Bills and records that are not needed for tax purposes can be disposed of as soon as you receive confirmation that your payment has been received and credited to your account. Receipts for important purchases like appliances should be kept for as long as you have the item in case you need to file a warranty claim.

Foreverwills, life insurance information, and mortgage data.

Many people are using digital technology as a way of keeping records forever without keeping paper.  Scanners that turn paper statements into electronic files are now available at very reasonable prices.  In addition, the major investment firms will retain electronic records of your statements and confirmations for up to 10 years.

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