Heir atlas: A personal finance 'hub'

It’s not uncommon for a person to store — and forget — their financial statements in a shoebox that might never be found by their family.

Darien-based Heir Atlas is an online service, launched in September, that allows people to list the locations of their financial accounts for their children or other beneficiaries to find. Customers use the site like a worksheet or guide to record the types of accounts and advisors they interact with, including doctors, insurance agents, accountants and attorneys. The site has the security of online banking, according to co-founder and Darienite Nick Banks, and does not require passwords, PINs or identifying information other than the institution.  Customers indicate when they would like recieve reminders  to update their accounts and beneficiaries. Heir Atlas does not sell third party information or display advertisements, which is why they charge $10.75 a month for the service.

The system is set up so that when automatic credit card payments stop and the client cannot be reached, a previously indicated “trusted party” will recieve access to the account. The account allows for more than one trusted party, and requires those individuals to accept their role. The service does not designate them legal executors, they only have access to the information for distribution to the appropriate people.

Even the most well-intentioned clients forget to update their legal will or let beneficiaries know about old bank accounts, said Banks, a professional wealth advisor and Wall Street veteran. He and his partner, Les Himel, discovered that some of their clients needed a connecting factor for financial and personal information. “They had a number of different advisors,” Banks said, “I was just one cog in the machine of that client’s life.” He also saw different methods for storing asset information ranging from shoeboxes to legal wills.

A great amount of financial assets end up in the hands of the state when no one claims them. The state will try to find the right owner of a “dormant” account but “it’s a very arduous task,” Banks said. A person can use a site like Unclaimed.org, from The National Association of Treasurers, to search for unclaimed property or assets in their name and then update their account for beneficiaries. Likewise, the individual or their family is responsible for claiming life insurance. The problem is that family members cannot search for an account they do not know exists.

Professional advisors are valuable but they also retire, Banks said, taking their knowledge with them. If they do survive the client, their family is not usually aware of who the advisor is, he said. He also urgers residents with older relatives living alone to start a conversation about where to find their assets and what to do with them.

Heir Atlas users have one characteristic in common—they have “at least one financial asset they have to protect for the benefit of their heirs,” Banks said.

More info: heiratlas.com; Use “7so9ln” as a discount code.

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