Fidelity-Very Negative Experience with Inheritance Services

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Spyder59
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:13 pm

Fidelity-Very Negative Experience with Inheritance Services

Post by Spyder59 » Tue Sep 18, 2018 4:34 pm

Just a heads up regarding very poor customer service at Fidelity Inheritor Services. Recently, a family member passed who owned a Fidelity brokerage account with three beneficiares listed, each receiving 1/3 of the account. The account has a mix of a little cash and the balance in Treasuries of different maturities.

My initial call to get info on how to transfer the assets entailed being placed on hold for over an hour. After receiving the forms necessary to effect the transfer, I started to draft a required letter that all three beneficiaries must sign in order to direct Fidelity how to divvy up the T bills. I decided to call in order to find out how to address the division of even numbered bond purchases; i.e., a 100 bonds divided into 33/33/34 with cash from the core account to make the cash value equal, or we could sell a bond, etc. This should be a common type of inquiry. Further, in this instance, one of the treasury holdings may well mature before all beneficiaries have submitted their transfer paperwork. Seems like a common enough circumstance, and I wanted to know how to direct Fidelity to disperse the proceeds.

Well, I called my assigned advisor. Left a message. No return call. So, today I called and was placed on hold for over an hour to speak with an advisor. When I finally spoke to an advisor, the advisor refused to answer my questions, insisting that I was asking her to write the letter, which she could not do. I protested, and stated that I was capable of composing this letter, but need some guidance so as to avoid delay in the event I had not anticipated direction that Fidelity might need in order to divide the assets. The advisor was polite, but passive aggressive. I asked to speak to her supervisor who was equally unhelpful, until after I informed her that I was going to follow up and request that the recorded call be reviewed by her manager. Lo! My questions were quickly answered.

I bring this up to make Fidelity account holders aware that if they have beneficiaries listed, and own individual securities, it may not be as easy as one might think for your beneficiaries to provide the guidance Fidelity requires. Fidelity will not assist. Fidelity’s advisors were not helpful, bordered on being aggressive, albeit in a very passive way. I cannot imagine how a bereaved family member without prior investment experience could manage, especially with wait times of over an hour to speak to an advisor. Of note, I went through the same process with TIAA. TIAA was fast, responsive, and even compassionate. I for one assumed Fidelity would endeavor to make this as smooth a process as possible, well, such was not the case. Not an area we usually consider when evaluating an investment firm. Perhaps yet another reason to have a very simple two or three fund portfolio.

mhalley
Posts: 6079
Joined: Tue Nov 20, 2007 6:02 am

Re: Fidelity-Very Negative Experience with Inheritance Services

Post by mhalley » Tue Sep 18, 2018 11:29 pm

Sorry for your loss and the negative experience. It is nice to see that other companies are not always perfect, as sometimes people on this board expect vanguard to be. Remember that all companies are run by humans, humans are not perfect, and it is how a company handles a mistake that separates the great ones.

blevine
Posts: 2003
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Location: New York

Re: Fidelity-Very Negative Experience with Inheritance Services

Post by blevine » Wed Sep 19, 2018 1:23 pm

So is it the fact that the assets must be split that caused the complication ?
Better to leave different beneficiaries on different accounts to divvy up before death, and
make things simpler for your heirs ?

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CyclingDuo
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Re: Fidelity-Very Negative Experience with Inheritance Services

Post by CyclingDuo » Wed Sep 19, 2018 1:56 pm

Spyder59 wrote:
Tue Sep 18, 2018 4:34 pm
I bring this up to make Fidelity account holders aware that if they have beneficiaries listed, and own individual securities, it may not be as easy as one might think for your beneficiaries to provide the guidance Fidelity requires. Fidelity will not assist. Fidelity’s advisors were not helpful, bordered on being aggressive, albeit in a very passive way. I cannot imagine how a bereaved family member without prior investment experience could manage, especially with wait times of over an hour to speak to an advisor. Of note, I went through the same process with TIAA. TIAA was fast, responsive, and even compassionate. I for one assumed Fidelity would endeavor to make this as smooth a process as possible, well, such was not the case. Not an area we usually consider when evaluating an investment firm. Perhaps yet another reason to have a very simple two or three fund portfolio.
Condolences on your loss, and sorry for your experience that you have been through.

We are long time Fidelity customers, and went through several meetings with Fidelity at the loss of our parents. Our experience was thankfully the opposite of what you went through - perhaps because after a few initial phone calls and sending of documents we had all of our meetings at one of the Fidelity branches where we were able to meet with several members of their team to get everything done correctly, and efficiently with all of the beneficiaries involved.

We did, however, have a similar negative experience where one of our parents held their money - Ameriprise. All phone conversations were met with some of the things you mention and the process was not as easy as it could have been (all done over the phone and involved documents, notaries, etc...).

Another parent was with Morgan Stanley, and again - that involved face to face meetings after some initial phone calls, and follow up calls after the face to face meeting. Again - that experience thankfully went very well.

Perhaps the lesson based on what we went through as well as what you went through is that if you can get a face to face meeting(s) at a branch - things seem to go a lot smoother with regard to customer service. It's not always possible with every financial institution, but if possible we certainly recommend a good old fashioned face to face. Your story is a good reminder that we will let our beneficiaries know that setting up a face to face has the potential to smooth everything out with good customer service and an easier transition.

CyclingDuo
"Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time." ~ Steven Wright

informal guide
Posts: 197
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2016 10:26 am

Re: Fidelity-Very Negative Experience with Inheritance Services

Post by informal guide » Wed Sep 19, 2018 2:36 pm

blevine wrote:
Wed Sep 19, 2018 1:23 pm
So is it the fact that the assets must be split that caused the complication ?
Better to leave different beneficiaries on different accounts to divvy up before death, and
make things simpler for your heirs ?
Another approach is to have the nonretirement assets in a revocable trust account and after settling any bills, taxes, etc, sell the securities and settle in cash with each of the beneficiaries (i.e., write a check and deliver to each).

Looking4Answers
Posts: 131
Joined: Fri Dec 08, 2017 4:48 pm

Re: Fidelity-Very Negative Experience with Inheritance Services

Post by Looking4Answers » Wed Sep 19, 2018 4:44 pm

[q Of note, I went through the same process with TIAA. TIAA was fast, responsive, and even compassionate.
[/quote]

What type of investments were being divided (I assume in thirds) by TIAA?

I have had one experience with an inherited Fidelity account, with only mutual funds and stocks. No complaints.

I did have a conversation with Inheritor services about what would happen in CDs were in an inherited account, and was told there would be a delay when CDs were in the account. From your experience, I would say Treasuries complicate matters as well.

Occasionally, someone posts here concerning buying brokered CDs. Also comparisons with Treasuries at Treasury Direct or Fidelity. I am curious if anyone has had experiences similar to yours, and whether thinking about possible problems for heirs might steer individuals to make different investment choices.

Spyder59
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:13 pm

Re: Fidelity-Very Negative Experience with Inheritance Services

Post by Spyder59 » Thu Sep 20, 2018 3:30 am

Thank you all for condolences.

I did not have access to a Fidelity office and do not use Fidelity advisory services. I am sure either would have been a big help. My investments are held at Vanguard.

The assets at TIAA did not involve individual securities. No doubt an important distinction.

For myself, I have a mix of funds and bonds, both munis and treasuries. Until this experience with Fidelity, I would have thought my wife and children would have been able to manage any division of assets. My wife and I happen to be updating our estate planning and going forward plan on using trusts, especially to help my adult children manage an inheritance. That is an excellent suggestion for avoiding this situation.

In 2011 my father died and his assets were at Fidelity. His investments were fairly complex. As the executor of his estate, my experience at that time with Fidelity was excellent. In this recent experience, both the advisor and supervisor acknowledged extremely long hold times (over an hour) were commonly occurring and that the company was hiring additional staff to try and address the problem. The supervisor told me that the staffing shortage was attributable to an extraordinary number of member deaths this year. Hmmm.

A lot of us hold individual bonds in lieu of bond mutual funds. Certainly, a simple three fund portfolio would avoid any difficulty dividing up assets among multiple beneficiaries. You may want to consider how your beneficiaries will manage dividing individual holdings and leave guidance, especially given that the beneficiaries must all agree on the asset division and in this case, Fidelity requires all beneficiaries to sign the same letter directing Fidelity what to do. Liquidating assets certainly is an easy solution, but may not always be advisable or easy depending on the holdings (liquidity, market value, etc).

Thanks for the responses. I know after this experience I am looking to simplify my holdings and will avoid any asset passing method that involves beneficiaries dividing up securities (other than funds).

Finridge
Posts: 499
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 7:27 pm

Re: Fidelity-Very Negative Experience with Inheritance Services

Post by Finridge » Fri Sep 21, 2018 3:33 am

blevine wrote:
Wed Sep 19, 2018 1:23 pm
So is it the fact that the assets must be split that caused the complication ?
Better to leave different beneficiaries on different accounts to divvy up before death, and
make things simpler for your heirs ?
Not a good idea. Unless you have separate accounts that are absolutely identical in their composition (and that is really hard to do) the balances will drift apart. That breeds resentment among the heirs. I've seen this happen.

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