Broker Check

Where is Dad’s Money?

August 13, 2019

Imagine if, sadly, Dad dies or becomes incapacitated. You’re in charge of handling all his financial affairs, from managing his investments to putting income sources in place for Mom.

There’s just one problem: He was an old-school guy who never consolidated his assets or set up online accounts. Also, it appears he worked with different brokers and you don’t even know who they are.

What now?

Go talk to your neighbor next door, or the harried woman at work or even your millennial dog walker. Why? Because this is a common problem, and more people are working through it than you might think.

But more importantly, share your challenge with your own financial advisor. No one has a more vested interest in helping you manage assets to your best advantage. You may also learn various ways to track down and help manage your parents’ assets, and, the best part is, you don’t have to go it alone. Give us a call — we can help.

You know your dad as well as anyone. Hopefully, he kept organized financial records that are easy to find. However, because prior generations didn’t have easy access to today’s financial software and cool apps, he may not have a conveniently centralized record of his accounts, policies and important legal documents.

Naturally, you’ll want to start with his desk or a file cabinet. From there, consider these tips:

  • Review all the mail for statements and bills.
  • Look for any record of a safe deposit box — such as a bill for the rental or a key — as many people retain a safe deposit box at their local bank.
  • Contact your dad’s past employers to find out if they know of any pensions or retirement plans your dad held, or employer-purchased life insurance.
  • Check unclaimed property lists in every state where your father lived; states collect and hold unclaimed deposits and accounts.

Look for bank accounts, bonds, stocks, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, dividend or payroll checks, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, safe deposit box contents, and securities and utility deposits held by financial institutions or holding companies. 1

Assets are considered dormant or abandoned if there’s no activity in the account for a year or more. Bear in mind that if you miss out on claiming well-hidden assets, those assets may eventually become property of the state where those accounts are domiciled in a process known as escheat.2

For state searches, start at, sponsored by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. It’s a free website that allows you to search for unclaimed property held by each state.3 You also might want to check out to conduct a national search.4

If you need additional help, you may consider hiring a forensic accountant. Television shows often depict forensic accountants as people who uncover offshore accounts, shell companies and other shady financial accounting practices. They are, but they also can use those clever skills to find, for example, whatever mining oil stock Dad invested in 20 years ago and conveniently forgot to tell Mom.5

Forensic accountants have the experience and knowledge necessary for conducting a thorough investigation to find accounts no one in the family knows about — not because Dad intentionally hid assets but because he was a private guy. For instance, a forensic accountant might pull an IRS transcript that shows 1099-DIVs and 1099-INTs issued to your dad at some point. These are forms that banks issue for account activity involving amounts of $10 or more. The point is, forensic accountants know all sorts of methods that you may not have considered.6


Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

Roberta Codemo. Legal Zoom. “How to Recover Unclaimed Inheritance Money.” Accessed June 24, 2019.


National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. “Start your free search for money that might be due you.” Accessed June 24, 2019.

4 “What to expect.” Accessed June 24, 2019.

5  Investopedia. April 25, 2019. “Forensic Accounting.” Accessed June 24, 2019.

6  The Wealthy Accountant. Aug. 16, 2017. “Forensic Accounting: The High-Paying Part-Time Business.” Accessed June 24, 2019.