So what do you do when someone near and dear to you dies suddenly, and leaves no financial information behind? This can create a real nightmare for the person(s) in charge of settling everything up. Here are some ideas I’ve found helpful over the years.
If you can find last year’s tax return, it can be a gold mine of information. If the person had significant investments, they will be listed on the return, along with the amount of income earned from them. Many tax preparers will staple the financial documents they used to prepare the return into the folder with the tax return. If the deceased had a relationship with a broker to manage investments, that person’s name will likely be on the statements.
If you know the name of the tax preparer, that person can also be of help. That person may have had conversations and answered questions for the deceased. If they kept notes, those may be useful to you in tracking down information. That tax preparer can also be useful to you as you prepare to file a final tax return for the deceased.
Go through the deceased’s desk, or wherever they kept their records. Look for a checkbook. If you go to their bank with proof that you are administering the estate, the bank can give you information on automatic payments that go out of the account, and direct deposit payments that come in. This can also be a good source of information to track down credit cards, loans and other situations that need to be resolved.
As you clean out the house, keep an eye out for relevant financial documents, and also a key that might be to a safe deposit box.
Many questions can be resolved online. A quick visit to the county assessor’s website, for example, can tell you whether property taxes have been paid and are up to date. Here is a list of state websites that you can check to see whether the state is holding money (run your own name through there while you’re at it). http://www.parade.com/53866/leahingram/do-you-have-unclaimed-money-how-to-find-out/ A bonus to money found there, it’s usually not taxable! The Washington state site is www.claimyourcash.org.
We would welcome other ideas that our clients have found to track down elusive information. Drop us a note, and we will include your thoughts in a future post!