Sarah (26) recounts the unexpected financial and emotional turmoil she and her siblings faced after their father’s passing. With no will in sight and a trail of unclaimed assets, the siblings embarked on a quest that tested their resilience and their wallets.
Here’s Sarah’s #MoneyMatters story:
Can you tell us about your relationship with your dad and how his passing came about?
Sarah: My dad was a quiet but constant presence in our lives. He wasn’t one for heart-to-heart chats about life or money, but we never lacked anything. His death was abrupt, a heart attack that left no time for goodbyes or last-minute advice. It was as if one day he was here, handling everything as usual, and the next, we were thrust into a world of unknowns.
How did you initially cope with the financial uncertainty after his death?
Sarah: It was paralyzing at first. We were grieving and simultaneously realising that we had no idea where to begin with his finances. I didn’t even know what assets he had. We had to become detectives in our own homes, sifting through paperwork and trying to piece together a financial puzzle we didn’t know existed.
What were the first indications that there were unclaimed assets left by your father?
Sarah: Bills for safety deposit boxes we didn’t know about started coming in, and dividends from stocks none of us were aware of. It became clear that our dad had a whole financial life that was foreign to us.
How did the issue of unclaimed assets arise after your father’s passing?
Sarah: My father was a private man, and he managed his finances on his own. He passed away unexpectedly, and we found out that he didn’t leave a will. We were unaware of all his investments, insurance policies, and even some properties. It was like trying to put together a puzzle without all the pieces.
What was the first step you took in this situation?
Sarah: Initially, we were in shock and grieving. But we had to act swiftly, there was no time to focus on grieving. We sought legal advice to understand the process of claiming assets without a will. It was daunting – there were so many legal terms, procedures, and deadlines we didn’t know about.
Can you tell us about the costs involved in claiming these assets?
Sarah: Oh, the costs were substantial. There were court fees for letters of administration, legal consultation fees, and several hidden charges we hadn’t anticipated. Each step seemed to bring another expense. Our savings took a significant hit.
Did you have any support during this process?
Sarah: We leaned on each other mainly. Friends offered emotional support, but the financial and legal legwork was up to us. We also hired a probate researcher at one point, which was another cost.
What was the most surprising cost associated with claiming your father’s unclaimed assets?
Sarah: Honestly, the emotional cost. Yes, the legal fees were high, but the emotional toll of dealing with these surprises amidst mourning was something you can’t put a price on. It was overwhelming. Dealing with grief while navigating legal mazes was taxing. There was frustration, anger at the system, and of course, the fear of not honoring our father’s legacy properly.
Looking back, what do you wish you had known before?
Sarah: I wish we’d had conversations about finances and wills. Many people think it’s morbid to talk about death, but it’s necessary. It’s about ensuring that your loved ones aren’t left in the dark if the worst happens.
How has this experience changed your approach to your own financial planning?
Sarah: Completely. I’ve taken steps to organize my own assets, and I now have a will. I’ve also started educating myself on financial planning and estate management – I don’t want my loved ones to suffer through this kind of ordeal.
Have you found all of your father’s assets?
Sarah: We’re still in the process. It’s a long and ongoing journey. We keep discovering new things. It’s made us realize just how much can remain hidden without proper documentation and conversation.
What advice would you give to others to avoid a similar situation?
Sarah: Talk to your family members about finances, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Encourage them to have a will and keep records of their assets. Educate yourself about financial planning – it’s empowering and essential.
What’s the most significant lesson you’ve learned through this process?
Sarah: The importance of being prepared and the value of open communication about money. It’s not just about what you leave behind; it’s about the clarity and care you provide your loved ones by preparing for the inevitable.
Sarah, your strength and openness are inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
Sarah: If our experience can help even one family avoid this pain, sharing our story is worth it. Thank you.
#MoneyMatters is a series diving into the financial decisions, triumphs, failures, and lessons from real people.
Thank you for joining us for Sarah’s sobering yet educational tale. We hope it shines a light on the crucial, often overlooked aspects of financial preparedness.
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Watch out for our next edition of #MoneyMatters, where we’ll uncover more personal stories and insights. If you have a story to share, please email us at [email protected].