Locating The Assets of a Deceased Loved One

Locating all the assets of a deceased loved one can be a daunting task.  This task can be designated to the executor of the will, but it will be helpful if family members approach the project together. It is helpful to always have a copy of the death certificate and the will as you inquire to financial institutions, former employers, and local town offices in reference to your loved one’s assets. 


First, start by checking their desk and computer to locate financial records.  In the desk you will possibly find the checkbook, bank statements, and similar accounts.  This information will lead you to the financial institutions of your loved one’s accounts.  Expand your search to include pensions, IRAs, insurance policies, stocks, bonds, and 401(k)s.  

Your loved one may have handled all their business online.  If you have access to their computer, check the computer for their browser history. Although you may not know their password to access their account, this will give you an idea of which financial institutions or firms you will need to contact on their behalf.  

It is also important to locate your loved one’s most recent tax return.  The tax return will contain information about the assets they possessed.  If you cannot locate one in the home, you can request one from the IRS or their accountant.  It is important to have the necessary documents available to prove you are authorized to receive this information. 

Sometimes people don’t trust financial institutions and they choose to hoard their valuables in different places in their homes.  You may want to check the home safe, books, and other hiding places in the home.  


Go to the deceased’s bank, with your necessary documents to prove you’re authorized to make inquiries concerning their accounts.  Find out if there are any accounts or safe deposit boxes in the deceased’s name.  Safe deposit boxes usually contain assets such as jewelry, cash, bonds, and other items of worth.  The laws may vary from state to state as to who can access the safe deposit box of the deceased.  Keep in mind, there may be a fee to open the safe deposit box if you do not have a key for the box. The purpose of gaining access is to have a list of their assets.  


If your loved one was still working, reach out to their employer to locate any retirement plans, life insurance policies, or 401(k)s of which you were unaware.  Even if the person was not working at the time of their death, it is worth reaching out to former employers to locate any additional assets.  Remember, any organization you interact with will require you to present documentation of your authority as executor. 


You should also go to the county probate clerk and register of deeds and ask them to help with a search for assets or real estate that was in the deceased’s name.  Although this information can be found on recent tax returns, this will give you quicker access as you wait to receive the tax return from the IRS. 


As the executor of their will, you have the right to identify any unclaimed money left behind in the deceased’s name.  It is recommended to go to the Bureau of Fiscal Treasury because it has a list of reliable government agencies that can help you find this money. 

In order to make sure that all assets are transferred to the right individuals, you will want to thoroughly investigate different insurance and retirement policies and benefits. Your loved one’s employer may have the information or you may have to check online databases.  It is important to remember that any unclaimed funds will eventually go to the state.   


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