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.

“Ugh.” Dave sat back in the office chair and rubbed his eyes. “I would make a terrible hacker.”

“Still no luck, Honey?” asked Emily dumping another stack of dusty files in the huge plastic lawn bag that took up most of the floor of the tiny office.

“I never thought trying to figure out someone’s password would be so difficult. I can’t imagine how much time and frustration would have been avoided if dad had just written down all his passwords and financial information in a safe place.”

“With all the paper records your father kept you think he would have written his password down somewhere.” Emily lifted a fistful of faded yellow carbon slips. “There are receipts here going back 30 years.”

“And who knows if there is anything helpful to us in Dad’s computer. With all the paper in here it seems unlikely that he would have been using his computer for record keeping.”

“Only a few more boxes left in the garage,” said Chelsea entering the office with yet another cardboard box of manila folders. Behind her, lugging an old metal tackle box, was Dave and Emily’s six year old daughter, Madison.

“Thank you for helping, Maddy,” said Emily. “I know it’s been tough these past few days, but I’m sure Grandpa would be really proud of you.”

“Maddy has way more energy than me,” said Chelsea plopping down on the garbage bag as if it was a bean bag chair. “I’m beat.”

Maddy fell onto the garbage bag next to Chelsea and giggled. It was the first time she had even cracked a smile since Dave’s father had passed away. She started fiddling with the handle on the tackle box and then unclasped the metal latches.

“Hey Dave,” continued Chelsea, ”are you still trying to break into the Pentagon?”

Dave laughed. “It’s ironic that Dad was always calling me to get help with his emails and now I can’t even log into his computer. I think we are going to have to hire someone to try to hack into it.”

“Sounds expensive,” said Chelsea.

“Did Grampa win an award?” asked Madison.

“What did you say, Honey?” asked Emily.

“An award. This looks like the paper I got at school for good spelling.” Madison held up a heavily-creased document with an elaborately printed design.

“Can I see that, Honey?” asked Dave.

Madison stood up and handed her father the piece of paper.

“What is it?” asked Chelsea.

“It’s a stock certificate,” said Dave. “One hundred shares of a company I’ve never heard of before.”

He handed the stock certificate to Emily, who looked at it and then passed it to Chelsea.

“What’s a sock certificate?” asked Madison.

“Stock certificate,” Dave corrected. “It’s a piece of paper that says you own part of a company, Maddy.”

“What’s this worth?” asked Chelsea.

“I’m not sure, but if the company is still around, it could be worth something. It’s only a hundred shares so I don’t think it would be much. I’ll have to do some research.”

“I hope it has some value,” said Emily. “The life insurance money isn’t going to go far and, to get this house in shape enough to put on the market is going to cost quite a bit. And we don’t even know yet if your father had any debts or what bills might show up.”

“I wish I had paid closer attention to him the last few years,” said Chelsea. “I bet he needed help managing this place but was just too stubborn to reach out.”

“That was Dad. Stubborn as an old mule,” said Dave.

“Let’s get this wrapped up and go for ice cream,” suggested Emily. “I think Maddy deserves a treat for finding that stock certificate. I would have just thrown out that old rusty tackle box.”

Madison smiled again.

This article is part of an ongoing blog series featuring fictional characters as they navigate real-life legal situations. While we cannot always release details of actual cases, Wittmer | Linehan have successfully counseled many clients through cases just like this one. Our highest goal is to educate you about the complexities of the legal areas in which our practice specializes. Should you have questions about anything we discuss in our blog, please don’t hesitate to reach out by phone or our web contact form.