Hidden Money — Tips & Cautions for the Younger Generation
By Albert J. A. Young, Esq.
I have noticed a phenomenon over the last several years that applies to "Depression Era" parents and grandparents — those people who grew up during the 1930s, when many banks failed, taking people's hard-earned savings with them.
Many people from that generation never overcame their distrust of banks. Even with most of their money invested with banks and brokerages, they always seemed to keep a stash of cash somewhere, guarding against some future bank failure, no matter how unlikely that might seem (and disregarding Federal guarantees!).
Sometimes the stash could be in the house, or in a garage, in an outbuilding, or literally buried in the back yard.
Folks from that era may also be very secretive about their finances, and especially about such a cash stash. As members of that generation become quite elderly, they also sometimes have memory or dementia issues and forget where they hid the cash — or even that they have cash hidden! One of our clients had secreted lots of cash (over six figures' worth) — but forgot where. Our client's children accused each other of finding the money and keeping it. In the end, the money was never found, and the family disharmony never repaired.
Don't throw out all that old frozen food before inspecting each wrapped item carefully — one of our client's children found ten thousand dollars in cash in a frozen block in the freezer! Several of our clients used stacks of old newspapers as a "safe." I can only imagine how many piles of old newspapers loaded with cash have been thrown into dumpsters.
Even my own family has seen this happen. When cleaning out my 93-year-old uncle's assisted living facility room upon his death, we found cash in drawers, in suit coat pockets, in a sock in the sock drawer and — actually — under the mattress. It added up to around twenty thousand dollars!
Perhaps the "Y2K" hysteria rampant in the run-up to the year 2000 re-awakened many fears in this generation; other clients report finding valuables, firearms and stock certificates hidden in crawlspaces, in ventilation ducts, even in the ceiling behind drywall!
So, learn from this. If your parent or grandparent is willing to have a conversation about this subject, do so before such memory issues present themselves.
If your aged family member is unwilling or if it is too late, take GREAT care before disposing of their personal property, especially clothing, frozen foods — and, of course, newspapers!