This serialized, fictional account about Dave and his family has been created to offer a glimpse of what happens after a family member dies and what should be considered when writing your will and planning for your estate. Each chapter details some of the real-life situations often encountered by our clients, and we encourage you to follow the entire story to better understand the complexities of this fictional case.
“What’s he doing? We’re going to be late,” said Dave, sitting in the passenger’s seat of Emily’s minivan.
Chelsea leaned out of the open side door. “Hurry up, Kirk!” she yelled.
“Hold on! We forgot something!” boomed Kirk from deep inside their father’s house.
A moment later, Kirk emerged from the house with a piece of paper.
“What’s he got?” Chelsea wondered out loud as they all watched Kirk awkwardly lock the front door with the paper under his arm.
”It’s the stock certificate!” said Dave as Kirk climbed into the minivan a moment later.
“I know you couldn’t find anything on the company, Dave, but maybe the attorney will know something about old stock certificates that we don’t.”
“Yeah, it’s certainly worth a shot, Kirk,” said Dave.
After a short drive, the attorney’s sign came into view.
“We’re here already?” asked Chelsea with a little surprise. “I thought we were headed up to Tampa.”
“No, my friend Janice swears by this guy,” replied Emily. “She told me she picked him because he was local and had been practicing law for many years. He knew the local legal system and some local experts that really helped her case. And obviously, he’s right up the street.”
“Hopefully, things won’t be as complicated for us as they were for Janice,” said Dave. “But it’s good to know that if Dad’s old business partner is just trying to get money that he isn’t due, we have someone who will be able to go to bat for us.”
After parking and a very brief wait in the reception area, the attorney introduced himself to the group and invited them into a small conference room. Dave put a box containing several thick files and their father’s laptop on the table, and Kirk laid the stock certificate next to it.
“Before we begin,” the attorney started, “I want to offer all of you my deepest sympathies. Estate litigation is a tough line of work to be in since the majority of my clients are dealing with the loss of a loved one, but the reward of helping to ease some of the burden so you can focus on family keeps me going. So, know that I am here not only to help navigate the legal issues, but also to help make this whole process easier and clearer.”
“We appreciate that,” said Dave, and the rest of the family nodded with slight smiles.
“I’ve gotten a quick overview of the situation from my talk on the phone with Emily,” the attorney continued, “but I’d like go over everything again in more detail, especially any information you have relating to the business your father had with his neighbor.”
“Well, that is the core of our problem,” said Dave, pulling the laptop out of the box. “We think all of Dad’s business records are on this computer, but we don’t have the password to log in.”
The attorney took the laptop and smiled. “I know a very good computer tech here in town. It’s not the first time I’ve run into this.”
“He’ll be able to get to Dad’s files?” Chelsea asked.
“He’s never failed me yet,” the attorney assured them. “I’ll call him after our meeting. One thing I recommend to everyone is to write down all your more important passwords, and keep the list either in a safety deposit box or in a cloud-based security service. It’s obviously important to keep them up-to-date, and make sure someone trusted will be able to get access to them.”
“After spending two days trying to guess Dad’s password, I can see how that would be good advice,” said Dave.
The attorney noticed the stock certificate sitting beside the box of files. “Is that an old stock certificate?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Kirk. “Dave’s daughter found it in an old tackle box. We can’t find any record that the company still exists, and we don’t think it’s worth anything, but we thought we’d bring it along, just in case.”
“Well, to be honest,” the attorney said as he inspected the certificate, “I’ve seen a lot of old stock certificates, and more often than not, they turn out to be of little value. However, it’s not easy to determine the value of old securities. Fortunately, I’ve got someone I can call for this as well.”
“I wish we had just come to you in the first place,” said Dave, shaking his head. “I spent practically a whole day on the Internet trying to figure out what happened to that company.”
“Being the executor of an estate is a lot to take on,” said the attorney. “It’s definitely one of those things in life that is worth bringing in professionals to help.”