Yes, all of the systems similar to Heir Atlas address “after death”. What about now? What about you and your family, while you’re alive and healthy? Is death the only trouble spot? Hardly!
What will happen to your family if you’re in an accident? Even if you tell someone everything today, don’t things change?
What about Uncle George, who can’t remember what keys are for? Where does he do his banking? Does (or did) he have Long-Term Care insurance?
And your disabled child? Have you created a map for a caregiver yet?
This is all real! It starts, not when you turn 65, but now! Even if you don’t have responsibilities for others, what about for you? Are you immune to life’s events? Nothing can stop you, right?
This is a question of becoming aware!
Why Heir Atlas? Because it’s you, your family, and because it’s yours! Because this is the most basic of financial planning tasks, poorly understood and the most overlooked!
Have you heard stories like these? (These are all true)
“After my dad went to the nursing home, we found both a Life Insurance policy and a Long-Term Care policy that he forgot to pay premiums on; they had lapsed! We need them now…”
“My dad just received a call from a previous employer (from 20 years ago) asking what to do with his old 401(k)! He had left it after his employment change and move, and it slipped his mind; new management tracked him down. The $30k he left there became $131k! Never would have found that without that call.”
“My brother died years after his wife. We sold his place and later received a call from the buyer; a hidden box was found with a life insurance policy in it. We had no idea”.
“My mother had a stroke in 2004; I had a serious discussion with her just two weeks before that stroke, regarding her finances and policies, but by that time (she was 81) she was very reluctant to disclose anything, let alone everything. After the stroke, the hunt was on and we’re still uncertain that we’ve uncovered everything.”
“My son (32 and single, in a distant city) was in an auto accident; spent time unable to handle his own affairs. We were anxious to cover all of his obligations but we had to become detectives; where was everything? What was there to find?”
If we’re looking, won’t (mailed) statements or records surface? The world is going paperless. Access to digital records can be very difficult to achieve, and you need to know where to look.
We tend to think of these things as a) for them, the family and b) for after we’re dead. It’s just as important for us while we’re alive. If you’re an “Elder Orphan” (now alone at home), will anyone else know where to look for anything that might aid in your care, if needed? Has there ever been a reason for a young person to need help? Are you, or is anyone you care for, active? Do they face the uncertainties of daily life? Yes, probabilities lean toward the older set, but it’s not entirely age-based.
But, as we age, will we remember? Will our significant others? Don’t we want a “Trusted Party” to know where to go to help us?
Again, what do people do?
Maybe a computer spread sheet to list everything? Computers become obsolete and die. “My spouse knows!” Isn’t there always something left out? “My attorney has it all!” Will your attorney keep up with your life’s changes, outlive you and retire only after you’re gone? And how about that private loan to your friend George? Who knows about that? Our experience suggests updates lose that sense of urgency as the years go by.
Here’s an interesting bit of recent financial history:
In April of 2012, a settlement was reached between MetLife, Prudential, John Hancock (and other insurance companies), and the Attorneys General from 34 states, addressing Life Insurance policy payments not made. That settlement was for $500 million; the other 16 state Attorneys were going for more! It wasn’t that the insurers refused to pay claims; it was that the insurers did not receive death claims, and…well, funny story:
The insurers routinely went to the Social Security Administration’s “Death Master” file to download the social security numbers of people who had died. That information was compared to that of annuity holders to determine if payments could stop (to the now-deceased). Seems fair, right? Annuities provide an income while alive.
According to the Attorneys General, the companies neglected to walk that information across the hall to the Life Insurance department to determine any potential (and unpaid) life policy claims.
Here’s the point: ownership of a policy (Life, LTC, Disability, etc.) does not mean automatic payouts if or when appropriate. A claim must be made. So, when someone you know dies, who will make the claim to the insurer? Will you? Are you aware of the policies? How about for your policies?
Incredibly important point: for a policy like Life or Long-Term Care to be available for claim, they must be active (“in-force”). If premiums are missed, policies can “lapse”. Imagine an 84 yr.-old forgetting to pay premiums…unthinkable? It happens… and if that 84 yr.-old has not ensured that someone else knows about that policy, and the need to pay, is the policy available for claim? In this example no, and just when it’s needed, right?
And one more thing:
Among the 50 states and the USA territories (Puerto Rico, etc.) there is over $42 Billion in unclaimed funds. Can you imagine how “I’m not sure I found all of mom’s bank accounts” could add to that figure? It does.
Don’t let your assets go elsewhere; maintain control and direction. Start now.