Many details crop up that have to be dealt with when a person dies, such as distributing the inheritance, settling pensions and canceling insurance policies. But what happens if the financial advisor has not been kept up to date on the changes or the latest wishes of the deceased or if the deceased did not tell the family where the paperwork was kept?
Billions of dollars in unclaimed insurance policy payments and other death benefits go unclaimed each year because of these lapses. The founders of WeRemember.org feel they have come up with a way to prevent such situations.
At the same time, WeRemember.org wants to give independent advisors, investment firms and broker-dealers a way to differentiate themselves from their competition by offering a useful service to their clients.
Joe Palmer, president and co-founder of WeRemember.org, based in Glenview, Ill., became aware of problems that can arise after his grandfather died in an airplane crash. The family did not know where the final will was, and missing paperwork resulted in family members filing lawsuits against each other.
"People take out a life insurance policy or file a will and don't think of it again for years," Palmer says. "They don't tell family members where it is or who has control of it."
WeRemember.org was designed to do the bookkeeping to make death less complicated.
"This is a technology that can help the financial advisors and broker-dealers with back-office work, and it can be used as a marketing tool to attract new clients to their firms," says Allan D. Dau, chief business development officer at WeRemember.org.
It also offers a way for advisors to recruit new business by putting them in contact with the client's heirs.
"In addition, advisors have the opportunity to acquire new business through our site for simply being an active financial advisor with us," Palmer says. "If anyone that is a member of our site passes and they were not referred to us from a financial advisor, we refer them to the FAs we work with."
WeRemember.org was launched last June and now has about 3,500 individual clients. The firm recently started marketing to financial advisors and 35 to 45 have signed on so far. For a one-time fee of $29.95, an individual can sign up on the WeRemember.org Web site. The person fills out a form listing his or her insurance policies, wills, bank accounts and other pertinent data and where each is or who the lawyer is who holds the information. The forms take about 20 minutes to complete, depending on how many policies and accounts there are.
WeRemember.org sends out regular e-mails reminding clients to update their information. In addition to membership fees, WeRemember.org earns fees from insurance carriers when it refers individuals to them who aren't working with other advisors. Financial companies and insurance brokers also pay to sponsor "learning centers" on the Web site through which they answer questions for potential clients.
"When someone dies, it is not the time to send the family on a treasure hunt," says Daniel J. Higgins, a financial advisor with Strategic Planning Group in Atlanta, Ga. "We used to call these 'family love letters' and all the information was supposed to be kept in an accordion file in a closet somewhere. Automating it is a great service."
Higgins is suggesting the service to his clients and most have signed up. Higgins pays the fee for them.
When a client dies, WeRemember.org makes phone calls to heirs to let them know they are entitled to a benefit and tells them how to proceed. No truly personal information, policy numbers or benefit amounts are kept by WeRemember.org.
Palmer says he believes WeRemember.org may be the only service like this that actively notifies beneficiaries. Insurance associations and trade groups have not had dealings with these types of services as yet.
Financial advisors can find more information at www.weremember.org/FA.