“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
– Unofficial creed of the United States Postal Service
Each and every time I’m called-upon to settle an estate, one of my first tasks is to change the decedent’s mailing address. I do this – not because I need more catalogs – but because I am seeking a clearer picture of the decedent’s assets and liabilities. The items I am most interested in are bills (ongoing and onetime), bank and investment statements, and tax documents. But what if these documents never arrive?
Traditionally, however much (or little) we knew about the decedent, we learned through the mail. What stores they frequented. What bills they owed. Where their assets were located. Which charities they supported. However, in today’s electronic age, we are slowly transforming from a paper-based society to one that is – or at least aspires to be – completely paperless. With each passing year our dependence on traditional mail only decreases. The advent and broad acceptance of online bill payment, electronic statements, automatic deposits and the like have simplified our lives, but greatly complicated the estate settlement process. And until the law catches up to these new norms and begins allowing fiduciaries access to decedents’ electronic accounts without fear of prosecution, estate settlement will remain more difficult than it need be.
Until then, do your family and your advisors a huge favor – keep good records…on paper.
This article has been prepared for educational purposes only. The information in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal, financial or tax advice. Legal, financial and tax advice is dependent upon the specific facts and circumstances of each unique situation. The information contained in this article should not replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your state, a qualified financial planner or a tax practitioner licensed in your state.