My colleague, attorney Martha Patterson, sent out a great piece describing Three Critical Things You Should Do To Make Sure Your Heirs Don’t Lose Your Money. Please take the time to read her experience-based common sense suggestions below.
Ms. Patterson has successfully helped hundreds of clients establish their estate plans.
Since my practice focuses on representing those who have been injured by the negligence of others, I believe it’s important to leave the estate planning advice to an expert like Ms. Patterson.
Here’s what she said:
If your spouse or heirs cannot quickly figure out what you own after you pass away or become incapacitated, you won’t just leave them frustrated-you might leave them with less money. State Treasuries and other government agencies currently hold more than $32 billion in unclaimed financial assets, and most of these proceeds belonged to now deceased account holders whose heirs were unaware that the accounts existed. In the past heirs went to your file cabinet and safe deposit box. Today things have become much more complicated, online accounts…automatic withdrawals and bill payments… and dozens of passwords and PIN codes. All of this makes it harder for your heirs to find your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, life insurance, and unredeemed savings bonds. If your heirs cannot find your money the money ends up in a State Treasury or other government agency.
Here are 3 things to do to make sure your heirs can find your money:
1. Ditch The Safe Deposit Box For a Fire Proof Safe
If your heirs do not know where it is it could be difficult if not impossible to find. Further, if your heirs do not have the key and do not have permission to access the Safe Deposit Box, the Bank could require your heirs to get permission from the Court before they will open the box. A better solution for keeping important papers is a fire proof safe.
2. Keep A List of Your Accounts and Keep it Current
You should have a Paper list of your accounts with institutions and account numbers. You may want to keep the list as part of your Trust and also make sure that you give a copy of the list to the person who will handle your affairs when you die.
3. Keep A List of Your Passwords
It has become more and more important for people to change passwords and make them more complicated (harder for people including your spouse and heirs to guess), if our heirs can’t access your online accounts money can be lost. I recommend keeping your passwords in a safe location.
I know we all want to keep our financial information private, and may not want our spouses or heirs to know everything about what we own and how to find it, unfortunately when we become incapacitated or pass away in the digital age our heirs will not be able to open our mail, or go to the corner bank to find your money, you need to be proactive and make sure there is a way to find the information.
If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to take some time to plan your estate so that your family will be protected and your assets preserved if you die or need care, give Martha Patterson a call at (866) 452-9657.
You can also call me, of course, and I will be happy personally introduce you to Ms. Patterson. I can be reached at
(818) 306-5799 or
As always, I’m here for all of your legal needs. If your issue is something other than personal injury, then I have a great network of attorneys personally vetted by me to whom I can refer you.