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Executorship - how to discover finances?

28,570 3,726 April 18, 2018 at 07:07 PM
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Sorry to say but my mother passed yesterday. I've known I'd be the executor for awhile, and we all (family) thought that she'd have her affairs in order based on some previous bad experiences with other family members.

Well we thought wrong. Not only did she not have specific plans for burial, etc, but we can't find anything that resembles a summary of accounts - something comprehensive to reference when it comes to settling the estate.

So, now I am faced with trying to figure out the extent of my mother's financial life - bank, retirement and life insurance accounts, credit accounts, everything.

I'm not the legal executor yet but I'm trying to get a jump on it by going through what bills and statements I can find.

Anyone have suggestions on how to go about this?

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#2
its not easy grab all the financial papers and put them in a roll along suitcase,so you can go through them later,it will take about 24 hours to go through,when you go through some ones stuff you learn things about a person,get a few people to help you,

https://www.aol.com/2011/02/14/de...ne-passes/
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Thanks for the input. Right now I am just starting the process and hope to see an estate atty today.
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#4
I can empathize as I went through a similar thing when my dad passed a number of years ago. Nothing on a computer...nothing organized. Refused to do any of it even though I pressed him for years. Fortunately I had some info from when my mom was alive and knew where the will was and had some idea what banks he had accounts with.

That said, the easiest way to go about gathering info up as executor is to collect all statements\mail\bills that comes in\is still around and start building up a quicken database of everything. Banks and financial institutions all send statements. You need to check for safe deposit boxes and keys as well. Need to go through all papers. Can be a daunting task, esp. if you have to find actual stock certificates or bonds as older people from our parent's generation tended to not want to keep stuff with a brokerage.

You also get into tax issues. If your mom made you a beneficiary of 401ks, bank accounts that were designated POD (payable on Death) to you or other such stuff, you want to make sure you handle them correctly for tax purposes. Get a tax accountant who handles estates and a tax\estate attorney as well. Mistakes can cost you money, esp in NJ. If you have siblings who are also inheriting money, make sure you compensate yourself as executor\discuss an executor fee with your accountant. Sometimes it pays to take the fee, other times no depending on the tax bracket you are in and whether or not you and your siblings get along.

If you have a home to deal with and plan on renovating it, it will often make sense to do that under the estate as you can write off the renovations in full. If you plan on renovating it for rental, make sure the taxes are handled properly so you and\or the LLC you form do not get hit with unnecessary taxes or fees and\or lose write-offs.
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#5
Sorry for your loss. Maybe a credit report will help?

As you discover things, something like this may help:
https://docs.google.com/spreadshe...edit#gid=6

Lots of variations...but with all you have going on starting a new SS vs filling one in may save you a little trouble.
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#6
Credit report is a good idea also check tax returns or whomemever did the taxes.
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Thanks for the input.

We discussed things with the atty and he basically said the same thing - to notify known creditors of death (e.g. CC's), and to wait for other creditors to come out of the woodwork in the next 6-7 months. I've heard that from a few people so I assume it's a legal construct (6 months; most atty like to wait an additional month). I've had her mail forwarded to me, and I've gone through all bills and whatnot I could find inside the house. Her taxes were pretty straightforward, nothing surprising there.

I did cold call a life insurance co, which shed light on a life insurance policy she had, and I called on the financial advisor who also had some info. I tried stopping by the bank she used but they wouldn't talk to me without a death cert & executor paperwork.

So now I wait.

I am the benefactor (sole) of the life insurance and also her IRA's; the life insurance is not taxable, and the IRA isn't either provided I roll it over to myself. The FA did say that the IRA has an RMD, so I did have to fill out some tax paperwork for that, although I don't expect it to amount to much.
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#8
Definitely pull a credit report if you can and that'll give you a starting point of which institutions the deceased had accounts with.
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In terms of probate and estates, what is of too little value to consider an asset? My mother didn't have antiques, art, fancy furniture, jewelry, or anything of (what I would consider) significant value - just normal house furniture, couple cheapo LCD TV's, etc.

I asked the estate lawyer and he didn't really have a good answer; specifically I am thinking - what would be acceptable to cull in the 6-7 month "Waiting period"? e.g. clothing, by in large, has no market value. We could run a tag sale and get $5 for the lot...... or we could just take it all to Goodwill and be done with it. The same goes for.... dishes/flatware (no china, silver, etc here)..... books...... carpets/rugs.... the list goes on and on.

So, in essence we want to do as much as we can to get the major assets (e.g. house/property, car) ready for sale, but not wade into legal issues.
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Quote from Dr. J
:
In terms of probate and estates, what is of too little value to consider an asset? My mother didn't have antiques, art, fancy furniture, jewelry, or anything of (what I would consider) significant value - just normal house furniture, couple cheapo LCD TV's, etc.

I asked the estate lawyer and he didn't really have a good answer; specifically I am thinking - what would be acceptable to cull in the 6-7 month "Waiting period"? e.g. clothing, by in large, has no market value. We could run a tag sale and get $5 for the lot...... or we could just take it all to Goodwill and be done with it. The same goes for.... dishes/flatware (no china, silver, etc here)..... books...... carpets/rugs.... the list goes on and on.

So, in essence we want to do as much as we can to get the major assets (e.g. house/property, car) ready for sale, but not wade into legal issues.
Call a local that handles estate sales (like the garage sale in the house kind) and they will not only have advice...they can handle it for you Smilie
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Going through this now with MIL. This is a synopsis of what we are doing: lawyer, 20 copies of death certificate at $6 each (cheap here, many places are ok with a photo copy though, so maybe we bought too many), comb through all papers taking notes on account numbers and balances and dates in spreadsheet, terminate services, anything like Amazon prime (delete cards), PayPal, newspaper, cable, phone, etc, gain legal right to do so, then run credit report, comb through bank statements electronically, then start lining up creditors and contacting each one to freeze accounts. Some are sketchy, demanding payment in full and other normal things like a court document showing proof of probate. Also, I never thought ambulance companies would scam you, but our local one tried to bill her for a late payment before they even billed her for the original payment? So beware of scams even from local trusted sources. As this process plays out, the normal bills from everyday life appear, car payment, insurance, mortgage, property tax, registrations, gas and electric, but then others appear too, like the life insurances. The big saver here has been the spreadsheet. Just a simple accounting, but worth every second we spend on it.
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Hopefully this is not derailing the thread, but I wonder how this would work in the future with everything going to paperless statements. It's not an issue now, because most older folks do not do a lot of online banking and bill paying. But I think in another 10 years this could be an issue. If you don't have access to the loved one's email account and they didn't keep a list of what they had, I think this would be much harder to resolve.
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Quote from teenbean
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Hopefully this is not derailing the thread, but I wonder how this would work in the future with everything going to paperless statements. It's not an issue now, because most older folks do not do a lot of online banking and bill paying. But I think in another 10 years this could be an issue. If you don't have access to the loved one's email account and they didn't keep a list of what they had, I think this would be much harder to resolve.

Yeah paperless statements are an evil lurking in the background imo. People should back things up and have a copy somewhere of important files be it in a safe deposit box or elsewhere. I wonder how many people actually do though. And even if they do, the files may be encrypted\pw protected. I suspect that as the accounts age and go dormant, the banks\institutions will send out paper letters, but that could take years.
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Quote from YanksIn2009
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Yeah paperless statements are an evil lurking in the background imo. People should back things up and have a copy somewhere of important files be it in a safe deposit box or elsewhere. I wonder how many people actually do though. And even if they do, the files may be encrypted\pw protected. I suspect that as the accounts age and go dormant, the banks\institutions will send out paper letters, but that could take years.

......... or go to a state comptroller. You know the "unclaimed money" department every state has.

Anyway I am still waiting on the probate court to make me "official" so right now I am still in limbo. I've contacted what CC's I know she had (paper statements) who all seemed to direct me to a "probate service" (e.g. it seemed like all the same company on the phone so I think they farm that out). A few did state "we have to tell you that you are in no way liable to pay this account off personally...." and NONE asked for a copy of the DC. The only places that have asked for an original ($10/ea) have been Edward Jones and Prudential. Only one CC asked if there would be an estate to take care of the balance (AmEx, balance ~ $7k) to which I said "perhaps" because honestly I have no idea. I am wondering if the rest with ~ $100 balances will even bother trying to collect..... while they didn't say as much a few of them just said "OK we'll close the account". Huh. The bank won't even talk to me without the executor paperwork whereas the CC's just took my word for it.
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Quote from Dr. J
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......... or go to a state comptroller. You know the "unclaimed money" department every state has.

Anyway I am still waiting on the probate court to make me "official" so right now I am still in limbo. I've contacted what CC's I know she had (paper statements) who all seemed to direct me to a "probate service" (e.g. it seemed like all the same company on the phone so I think they farm that out). A few did state "we have to tell you that you are in no way liable to pay this account off personally...." and NONE asked for a copy of the DC. The only places that have asked for an original ($10/ea) have been Edward Jones and Prudential. Only one CC asked if there would be an estate to take care of the balance (AmEx, balance ~ $7k) to which I said "perhaps" because honestly I have no idea. I am wondering if the rest with ~ $100 balances will even bother trying to collect..... while they didn't say as much a few of them just said "OK we'll close the account". Huh. The bank won't even talk to me without the executor paperwork whereas the CC's just took my word for it.

I found CC companies just waived the balance and closed accounts without issue. My dad did not have huge balances on any, so most likely Amex is doing so to try to see the estate will pay off the amount. Technically, I think they can sue the estate to pay the balance, but most obviously are not going to bother for a couple of hundred dollars. 7k and maybe they do. I would probably just ignore Amex and see what they do as they might just decide to waive the 7k as well.

As to banks, they are heavily regulated and will not even look at you without a Letter of Testamentary. Plus they are obviously paying out money not trying to collect, so they do not want to pay out to the wrong person either.
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