Contact a financial planner/broker

Financial planners and brokers can help the estate executor identify assets, determine whether to sell or liquidate them to minimize taxes, and distribute them when appropriate.

Many individuals use multiple means of planning for their financial future—from investing in stocks and bonds to putting money in savings accounts and Certificates of Deposit (CDs). If a financial planner helped them develop a strategy, that person will have a good idea of possible assets the decedent (will writer) held.

While it is possible to purchase stock directly from some companies through direct purchase programs, most stocks are purchased through a financial advisor or broker of some kind, so they can be a key to finding assets. Keep in mind that brokers don’t have to be a person sitting in an office anymore. A person can just as easily log onto a computer and use an online firm.

If you think the decedent might have made investments through an online brokerage account, check his or her email account for records of transactions. Also, if you talk to a broker and yet you receive dividend notices from stocks of which the broker did not have record, this can be a tip-off that the decedent was also using other brokerage services to make investments. Federal and state income tax records can also be helpful in finding any investment that offers dividends or interest payments.

And, remember, while the will writer probably had valid reasons to choose the financial advisor that he or she thought was best at the time, you are under no obligation to work with that advisor. They can help you find the executor’s assets, but they will transfer those assets to another firm upon your request. You should use the advisor you believe will best help you manage estate financial assets and the related tax consequences for the estate.