I often hear talk of persons keeping a small horde of gold, silver or cash at home. The reasons for doing so are many, but usually center on fears that banks will go under, the stock market will crash, the dollar will become worthless, the apocalypse is imminent, or [add a fear here]. There are also positive reasons to keep that stash, such as balancing a portfolio or keeping some money available at all times.

I have another fear I would like to add to that list – except it is a fear of keeping that stash at home. The fear is this: if any of your stash is missing at your death, how will your family know what happened to it?

Here is an example of a scenario that happens all too often: I had a case a few months ago where a father was supposed to have a collection of 100 gold coins. The father told one of his children about it a year ago. The father said he had hidden the coins in a couple of No. 10 cans marked “dried carrots,” sitting nonchalantly in the pantry with white plastic lids covering them. A few days after the father had passed away, my client went to those cans and found them empty.

Then the questions came. Where is the gold? Did dad move it? Did he sell it? Did he give it away? Was it stolen before he died? Did someone take it after his death – maybe a family member? The mystery continues to this day. And this story can be repeated with any number of estates and other types of personal items. Instead of gold, it could have been a coin collection, cash, guns, jewelry, or the china. Gold, silver, and cash are the most problematic because even if you find that your brother has 100 gold coins suddenly in his possession, proving his gold coins were dad’s gold coins is tough (or impossible). After all, he says he bought those years ago and does not have a receipt. Guns and dolls would be a little more identifiable, but you get my point.

Hence my fear. So, I suggest that you keep both a written and picture inventory of your stash, and give it to one or two persons you trust. Keep it current. If you buy or sell items, update your inventory immediately so your family knows what to look for if you are ever incapacitated or at the time of your passing. Doing so will not stop a thief, but it will give your family a starting point of knowing what to look for when the time comes.