How To Use
This review list is provided to inform you about this document in question and assist you in its preparation.
- Make copies of this letter and send it to all known and suspected financial institutions, including banks, brokerages, private companies, and related institutions that are known to have the Decedent’s accounts or might have them. If you are dealing with multi-branched or multi-state organizations, consider sending duplicate requests to any known offices Decedent may have dealt with (e.g., Merrill Lynch might have an account in Boston; but you know he also lived in Sarasota, Florida for part of the year; you should probably send a letter to the Sarasota office too, just to be prudent and exercise your proper duties as a fiduciary). This seemingly straight forward task can be very productive for estates in uncovering unsuspected assets such as old retirement accounts, stocks in private companies not otherwise known, and the like.
- In addition, as the above letter suggests, you should make a list of financial people the Decedent dealt with. Since these kinds of people move around a fair amount in their career, finding out who they are, and hopefully conversing with them, may lead you to some hidden asset treasure at the companies these people left or are currently employed by. Open-ended discussions with them often bring unexpectedly positive results. In addition, speaking with some old pals of the Decedent can also give you a sense of how he or she dealt with his or her financial affairs (e.g., orderly, disorderly, tight, loose, speculative, and so on and so on). These conversations may also lead you into areas, hobbies, or other avenues where Decedent may have parked some money or investments that, over time, may have brought results unexpected by Decedent, but now productive for the Estate. Be sure to maintain a written log of all phone conversations as well as keeping track of written correspondence. A well-written log can be consulted as you go along to inspire more thoughts about old contacts as you receive new information.
- Make multiple copies of this letter. Contact family members, especially heirs, for any suggestions on what avenues to pursue. Brothers and sisters are of particular help because they may know more about what the Decedent did with his or her assets in their early days and, if the Decedent’s spouse is also deceased, may know more about the assets he or she may have had or would have been likely to influence Decedent to have and to hold (e.g., stock in his or her brother’s company).
- Be sure to include the self-addressed stamped envelope with your letter as well as following up by phone. Once again, follow-ups here can be very productive for an estate. Include a copy of the “Letters of Appointment” or “Letters of Administration,” if applicable, with each set of correspondence you send out. The more official your documents look, the more productive you will be in your efforts.
- As a practical matter, the larger the estimated Estate, the more worthwhile the above activities that are of an investigative as opposed to administrative nature. Also, the more the Decedent was inclined to be speculative or entrepreneurial, the more apt they would have been to have assets in unexpected places.