A few weeks ago, I received a call at 8:30 a.m. from a stressed-out woman in Florida. Her brother, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot, was in a coma. Bills needed to be paid, but no one in the family, including his wife, had any information about his savings, investments, debt or other finances.
She believed he has approximately $800,000 in investments. All he ever told them was that “he put his money with an adviser who specializes in working with Delta pilots.” After calling several financial advisers, they had yet to find any money.
Fortunately, they had found three local bank accounts. But even this knowledge turned out to be a frustrating experience, since the woman and her siblings needed to work with three different banks to get access to the money or close the accounts. He also had a power of attorney document, which helped secure money from the banks. Still, the bills were piling up and there wasn’t enough money available to sustain his expenses much longer.
To provide some immediate help, I recommended his loved ones do the following:
Obtain his latest tax return
This document likely has the name and contact information of the accountant who prepared the tax return, if he had a professional provide that service. In addition, the tax return will document his income. “If you find the income, you can find the assets,” I told her.
That’s because earned interest, dividends, pension income and withdrawals from retirement accounts will be reported on the tax return. I also encouraged her to call the Delta Air Lines human resources department; there could be a lingering life insurance benefit or 401(k) balance there.
When he was admitted to the hospital in August, the relatives had no idea his health would deteriorate so quickly. This is a heart-wrenching example of how everyone needs to have their estate plan updated and make sure their financial affairs are in order at all times.
In addition, someone – a spouse, siblings, adult children – needs to know all of the financial details and how to access the money, life insurance and other important documents. Sadly, in this situation, even the pilot’s wife has no knowledge of her husband’s financial affairs and accounts.
None of us wants to be caught in this situation. Lots of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers with older relatives may need to know about a loved one’s finances to ensure all is in order during trying …….