Since we launched DGLegacy, we have been hearing such horrible stories! Some of them have truly shocked us. We heard this latest one yesterday. And this time, we agreed that we really had to start documenting them.
Yesterday evening, I drove to a small shop in Berlin that I visit regularly for its high-quality vegetables. When I arrived, the owner, a man in his 60s, smiled, greeted me, and said, “Hey, I’ve never found out what work you actually do.”I had to scratch my head. My whole career has been in tech, and from 2020, I’ve been CEO of the digital inheritance company DGLegacy. How could I explain digital inheritance simply to someone who is very smart but far removed from technology and whose daily work doesn’t require the use of many digital tools or services?
I briefly and carefully explained the problem. I started with the fact that many people have various assets, such as bank accounts, pension funds, insurances, and real estate. (I deliberately chose assets which he most probably has, and excluded examples such as company stocks, an investment portfolio, stock options, and cryptocurrencies.)
Then I pointed out that if anything happens to the owner, most of these assets don’t reach their family members, simply because they are not aware of them and cannot identify or locate them. As a result, they stay in the companies that store them.
I couldn’t fail to notice how the man’s eyes widened and his face froze. I knew that my story was not very exciting, and my goal was just to explain the problem and the solution, so I was surprised by his reaction. I asked him whether he understood what I was working on. His answer completely blew me away.
“Of course I understand! This is exactly what happened recently,” he said. I asked him to tell me more. “There was an old man living in our apartment block, right above us,” he continued.
He was very old, and one day he passed away. The ambulance came and collected him, and that was it. This happened about a year ago, and recently we realized that his apartment was still empty, which is very rare for Berlin these days.
Friends of ours needed accommodation, so we went to the landlord and asked him whether our friends could rent the apartment, as it had been empty for almost a year. The landlord said no, and told us why: the bank account of the old man was still active and had money in it, and because the payment was a direct debit, the landlord was still receiving the rent for the apartment, although the man had died a year ago!”
The bank account of the old man who passed away was still active and had money in it, and because the payment was a direct debit, the landlord was still receiving the rent for the apartment – although the man had died a year ago!
He went on: “This means that his money is still in the bank, and not only the bank is benefiting from that; the landlord (and who knows who else) is still receiving money from his bank account for nothing! If there is a small fortune in his bank account, the landlord will continue to be paid for the next 100 years! And the bank will also use the money, and it’s not theirs! So yes, I absolutely know what you are talking about!”
I was amazed that an owner of a small shop, in his 60s, was so aware of this problem and was so eager to protect his assets and his family.
And again, I was appalled by these stories which so painfully describe the problem we are engaged in solving.
I hope that we are contributing to creating a world where such stories will become less and less frequent – and hopefully disappear altogether.
Disclaimer: The names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals who shared their stories.