Assets: What To Look For

Impaired people sometimes make looking for assets they have acquired, hard to find. When trying to locate these assets, look in the most obvious places first. This can be a desk, office, or safety deposit box, anyplace one might keep valuable papers. Next move on to obscure places, such as under the bed, in shoe boxes, in pockets of clothing, in old purses, in teakettles, or other kitchen items, under rugs, and in jewelry boxes.

What you are looking for are:

Bank statements, canceled checks, bank books, savings books, passbooks, or checkbooks; keys, address books, insurance policies; receipts; business and legal correspondence; or income tax records for the past four to five years [a spouse filing a joint return or a person possessing a power of attorney or guardianship of property can obtain copies from the IRS. The power of attorney must meet IRS standards or be on their forms.] These items can be used to piece together a person's resources.

There are many kinds of assets:

Bank accounts. Look for bank books, bank statements, checkbooks, savings books, passbooks, statements of interest paid, joint accounts held by others. Most banks will not release information about accounts, loans, or investments to anyone whose name is not on the account. However, they may give limited information [such as whether there is an account in an individual's name] if you send a letter to the bank from your doctor or lawyer explaining the nature of the person's disability and the reason you need the information. Banks will release information about the amount in an account or about current transactions only to a court appointed guardian or other property authorized person. However, often you can piece together what you need to know from papers you can find.

Stock certificates, bonds, certificates of deposit, savings bonds, mutual funds.

Look for actual bonds, notices of payments due, notices of dividends paid, earnings claimed on income tax, regular amounts paid out of the bank, receipts. Mutual funds are accounts held in the name of the broker; look for canceled checks, correspondence, or receipts from the broker. Look for record of purchases or sales.

Insurance policies [life insurance, disability insurance, health insurance].

These are among the most frequently overlooked assets. Life insurance policies and health insurance policies may pay lump sum or give you the name of the insurer. Contact him for full information about the policy. Some insurers will release this information upon receipt of letter from a doctor of lawyer; others will need proof of your legal right to information.

Safety deposit boxes.

Look for a key, bill or receipt. You will need a court order to be permitted to open the box.

Military benefits.

Look for discharge papers, dog tags, old uniforms. Contact the military to determine what benefits are available to the person. Dependents of veterans may be eligible for benefits.

Real estate property [houses, land, business, rental property, joint ownership or partial ownership of the above.]

Look for regular payments into or from a checking account, gains or losses declared on income tax, keys, fire insurance premiums [ on houses, barns, businesses, or trailers.] The insurance agent may be able to help you. Look for property tax assessments. Ownership of real estate property is a matter of public record. The tax assessor's office may be able to help you locate property is you have some clues.

Retirement or disability benefits.

These are also often overlooked. You must apply for Social Security, SSI, veteran's benefits, or railroad retirement if you are eligible. Spouses and divorced spouses may also be eligible for benefits. Federal and state government employees, union members, clergy, and military personnel may have special benefits. Check into retirement or disability benefits from all past employers. Look for an old job resume, which will list previous jobs. Look for benefit letters.

Collections, gold, jewelry, loose gems, autos, antiques, art, boats, camera equipment, furniture, other negotiable property.

In addition to looking for such items, look for valuable items listed on property insurance policies. Some of these items are small enough to be easily hidden. Others may be in plain sight and so familiar as to be overlooked.


If the individual has made a will, it should list their assets. Wills, if not hidden, are often kept in safety deposit boxes, recorded by the court or kept by one's attorney.

Trust accounts.

Look for statements of interest paid.

Personal loans.

Look for withdrawals, payments, correspondence, alimony payments [occasionally divorce settlements provide for payment of alimony should the wife become disabled.]

Foreign bank accounts.

Look for statements of interest paid, bank statements.


Find out whether the impaired person is someone else's heir.

Cemetery plot.

Look for evidence of purchase.


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