Real Time Web Analytics

Friday, September 14, 2012

Where do I find the deceased's accounts and investments?

A reader has asked me a question that I hear frequently, so I'm sharing the question and my answer with all of you. Here's the question:

"When a person passes away, how do you locate all their accounts and investments if you don't have an updated list? Is it as simple as using their SIN card to locate them?"

I don't think you're going to like my answer, because there is nothing simple or easy about this. It usually takes a lot of legwork to find a deceased's assets and liabilities.

Having the SIN card is definitely helpful, as banks and other asset-holders can search their databases using a SIN card. This can be helpful since many people may have the same or similar name, but only one person will have a particular social insurance number. It should make searching easier.

The problem is determining which banks or brokers or investment advisors to ask. There is no place that you can enter a SIN and come up with a comprehensive list of everything a person owns in various institutions. You will have to ask one bank or advisor at a time. It used to be worse; at least these days you can go to any branch of a bank and get a search of all branches of that bank. In the not-so-distant past you had to approach each branch individually.

So how do you know which banks or advisors to ask?

Check paperwork at the deceased's home and office. Look for statements and bank books of course, but also any correspondence such as insurance offers.

In these days of paperless banking, fewer and fewer people leave paper statements around. If you don't have access to the deceased's computer, you're going to have to do it the hard way.

If you see a credit card in the deceased's wallet, check the bank that issued the card. People frequently get credit cards from the same place they do their regular banking.

Check to see which banks have branches close to the deceased's home or place of work. Most people choose to bank where it's convenient for them. Seniors in particular tend to choose the branch closest to home, within walking distance if possible.

If you have access to the deceased's past tax records, check to see which banks issued T5 slips for investments. There should be a copy of each T5 attached to the deceased's copy of a filed return.

When you check with a bank, whether or not you are successful in locating a bank account, ask the personnel to check the bank's investment arm as well. The major banks all have investment advisors attached to them (Scotia McLeod, RBC Dominion Securities, etc). Also remember to ask about safe deposit boxes, because many people will store original share certificates, deeds to the house etc. and you can often find clues there. For example, look at the deed to the house to see whether there is a mortgage registered against the house; the title will tell you which bank holds the mortgage.

Remember that many people have assets in more than one bank. So the fact that you've located an account in, say, Scotiabank, doesn't mean that you should stop looking.

The cold hard fact is that it is often an immense amount of work to figure out what another person owned, particularly where most records are kept on a computer that you can't access. This is why estate planners are always suggesting that people make an updated list of assets and liabilities.

As I said, you're probably not enjoying this answer one little bit, but unfortunately there may not be an easier way.

8 comments:

  1. This has been very helpful. I appreciate the advice about using past tax records and the fact that one branch can search for the complete bank itself.

    This is the first time on this site, but I have bookmarked it for further information.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the feedback Mike. There is a ton of info on this site and I hope you find what you need.

      Lynne

      Delete
  2. If the deceased opened up a trust account for someone; e.g. family member or other, in one of many banks, how would the person for whom the trust was issued find out about it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You said that the deceased opened up a trust account, as opposed to the executor. Does this mean you are talking about a bank account that was set up as an "in trust for" account? If you are not the executor of the estate, you are going to find it impossible to find out anything because nobody is going to discuss the deceased's financial affairs with anyone but the executor. If you are the executor and you simply cannot find any clues among the deceased's paperwork as to where this account might be, you are going to have to contact the banks. I would suggest contacting the main branch of each of the major banks, All branches of a bank are linked by computer so there is no need to go branch by branch the way we did in the old days.

      Lynne

      Delete
  3. How do you find your deceased parents assets when they been gone longer that 14 years ago?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I assume you've tried the things I mentioned in my post?

      Lynne

      Delete
  4. can my parents cancel my brother's bank account and give back the bank card as well as his death certificate if his ex is not willing to do so? by ex I mean she is still legally married but no separation nor divorced was ever filed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That depends on a couple of things.

      First, who is the executor of the estate? Whoever was named in the will as the executor can deal with all of the assets of the estate, including bank accounts.

      Second, was the bank account joint with his wife? If so, she will now own the account and nobody else can force her to close it.

      Lynne

      Delete

You might also like

Related Posts with Thumbnails