Keeping money in international accounts has long been a way individuals sheltered funds or kept assets private, but sometimes you can hide your money too well. If money is hidden away in secret accounts, especially overseas, it can be difficult for heirs to know about it or gain access to it when you pass away if you haven't planned ahead.
One illustration that this is true is the fact that millions of dollars are sitting dormant in Swiss bank accounts as the financial institutions try to match them to appropriate heirs. According to reports, as much as $7.9 million in 300 accounts hasn't moved in over 60 years, and the financial institutions want to find the heirs to which is money belongs.
This recent revelation by the Swiss banks comes after a similar announcement last year that involved even more money and 2,600 accounts. The banks published names for accounts, stating they had not been able to make any contact with account owners since 1956.
Even with thousands of possible heirs, it's unlikely you have millions sitting in a Swiss bank to your name -- though it's always worth a look. This case does make a good point about the need to research financials and other information when you are dealing with estate administration matters.
You can often determine whether there are assets you didn't know about by reviewing financial records and files your loved one left behind. It's a good idea to collect a month or two of mail too, and go through those items, as you are settling the estate. Mail can provide you with information about both debts and assets. If you don't know where to start with this type of task, reach out to an estate law professional for assistance.