A Lesson Learned

A friend of mine gave me permission to share her story in the hope that it would be helpful to others. Her brother, a single man, was recently found dead in his Florida apartment. Sadly, no one in his family knows where he banked. They do not know his passwords or his Social Security number. They do not know whether he had a Will. They do know, however, that it cost the landlord $13,000 to clean the apartment as their brother’s body was not discovered for several days after his death.

Florida law prohibits the landlord from letting anyone into their brother’s apartment or releasing his belongings without an order from the Probate Court. As a result, the family has not been able to determine the extent of either his assets or his debts, which in turn makes it impossible for them to know whether it makes any sense to spend their own money to open a probate estate knowing that the landlord will be entitled to at least the first $13,000 recovered.

The lesson my friend would have us take away from her heartbreaking experience is to be sure that those we have named to take care of us or manage our affairs:

  • Can access our home and know where we keep our estate plan documents and financial records.
  • Have a list of our usernames, passwords and PIN numbers, or know who has been entrusted with this information.
  • Can access our password manager if we use one.
  • Have the names of our attorney, accountant, financial advisor, insurance agent and health care providers.
  • Know where we work and where we worship.
  • Know our preferred funeral director and how we would like our remains to be handled.
  • Are aware of assets stored offsite, such as recreational vehicles.
  • Have a copy of our Patient Advocate Designation and HIPAA Authorization.
  • Know how to reach our closest friends, neighbors, and family members.

If we can help you in implementing any of these suggestions, please give us a call at (248) 477-6300.

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