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Trisha Torrey

I Could Use Help from an Advocate

By January 27, 2013

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When my father died last Fall, he left a small IRA account. Frustratingly, Morgan Stanley, the financial investment firm, is holding it hostage.

When patients need help navigating the healthcare system, they can call a patient advocate. This week it struck me that what I could use would be the assistance of a financial institution advocate. I'm angry, I can't get what I need, I don't trust the people who are supposedly "helping" me; I need someone - an advocate I trust - who can help me finish up my work with Morgan Stanley so I can get on with life.

If only there was such a thing.

Let me explain:

I know next-to-nothing about retirement investing except the basics:

1. I need to save for retirement

2. I need to invest that money in smart places, and

3. Since I'm not good at understanding financial concepts myself, I need a trusted advisor.

My father followed those rules very well which is why he left some of his IRA to be inherited. He did have a financial advisor he trusted. Unfortunately, just a few days after Dad died, and after I had already signed the paperwork to move that newly inherited IRA money to my own account, Dad's trusted broker (I'll call her Joan) had left that Morgan Stanley office to go to a different firm.

I knew she had left; she contacted me the next day to tell me. She assured me that Morgan Stanley would cooperate with me to complete the transaction. I had every reason to believe that would be true....

Weeks went by, but I had so many other details I was trying to attend to, that I just didn't think much about it, until....

One day I decided I would check Dad's email so I could contact friends who might have written to him not knowing he had died.

I was shocked! There were emails from someone new at Morgan Stanley. "Mr. Torrey - I have taken over your account now that Joan is no longer with the firm. Please call me." Then, a few days later, "Mr. Torrey - I can't seem to reach you by phone. Please call me."

Seriously? She had taken over Dad's account - with no record of the fact that he had died, and nothing to indicate the account was to be moved, along with all my contact information? It made me angry through my grief.

So I phoned the new person - only to learn that she, too, had left the firm. I was then assigned to a third person, only to find out he was brand new and was an assistant who nothing about moving anyone's money, much less how to move an IRA from Morgan Stanley to another brokerage firm. My patience was officially spent.

After I finally did the requisite squeeky wheel thing - a call to the branch manager, and a threat of sharing my experience with the SEC - my case was moved to still another person (person #4). While she has been relatively helpful, I continue to run into several roadblocks trying to move that money, which makes sense when you consider that it's really no different than what we have to consider in healthcare: follow the money. Morgan Stanley does not, under any circumstances, want my inherited money to be moved elsewhere. They will do whatever they can to keep that from happening.

As of two weeks ago, I was told that all the details were in place, and my money would be moved. I was waiting to hear from my trusted financial advisor (different firm - someone I have worked with for years) that the money had been moved to my account. Instead I heard yesterday from Morgan Stanley. "OOPS! We have another piece of paperwork that needs to be signed!"

So I continue to wait, battle, complain, threaten, and wait some more.

What are the lessons for empowered patients? A few:

  • When you aren't getting the treatment you need, then make waves. I've put up with these shenanigans from Morgan Stanley for almost four months. That should be illegal. So I'm making waves - I'm writing about them and sharing what I write publicly. Important! I do NOT recommend you name names for a healthcare problem. That will get you blacklisted. (Naming names in a financial venue is very different. Someone else will want my business. But that's not true in healthcare today.)
  • Once you no longer have to work with a bad provider, then rate him or her publicly on one of the decent ratings websites. Those sites aren't good places to do research about providers yet because not enough patients have weighed in with their opinions. Once there are dozens or hundreds of opinions for a doctor, then the ratings will mean something - so it's important to make your opinion known.Using a ratings site to do so means you won't be publicly identified, so you can't be blacklisted.
  • And - most important: Remember that you don't know what you don't know. You need someone you trust to help you sort it out. Find yourself an advocate, whether that's a family member, a friend or an independent advocate. (I wish such an idea existed for financial affairs.)

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Agree? Disagree?
Share your experience or join the conversation!


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January 27, 2013 at 7:23 pm
(1) Kathy Day says:

When my father died, my mother received a letter from my father’s work pension administrators saying that there were no survivors (go figure, she is his WIDOW, getting this letter) and the monthly pensions would now stop. Numerous calls and letter got us nowhere. We contacted the Eastern Area Agency on Aging…whose services are available to all senior citizens…myself included. They put us in touch with an attorney, free of charge for a consult…who in turn got us in touch with a program out of Boston College who deals with exactly this type of problem. Within 6 weeks my mother got Dad’s pension, with back pay. If you continue to have difficulties….maybe your area agency on aging could help you. Good luck Tricia!

January 31, 2013 at 7:31 pm
(2) Tisha Diffie says:


I spent 15 years in financial services. When my father died I thought I had done everything possible to make the work easy for me. Updated estate documents in place, beneficiaries listed, money accounted for, etc. etc. I was SO WRONG!.

I won’t get into details here, you can read those on our website, but suffice to say that your situation is why I started the business I’m in now and why I work with families so they don’t have to deal with this kind of mess and emotional turmoil.

Thank you for sharing!

Tisha Diffie

February 2, 2013 at 12:06 am
(3) gemdiamondintherough says:

May I share????
The bottom line is SIN! GREED, SELFISHNESS, AND ONLY LOOKING OUT FOR THEMSELVES. I believe in the Bible and it tells us that the “root” of all evil is money. Remember the “root” or love of money is the problem and not money in and of itself.
What happened to taking care of our basic needs and then trying to help someone out whom is less fortunate. Or may not have the knowledge we have.
Yes Trish, it would be great if such services existed. But my guess is that if they did, those who would need them the most, would not be able to afford them!!!!!!!!!!!

March 22, 2013 at 2:17 pm
(4) Judi Taylor says:

You think 4 months is a long time? How about 7 years? I have been trying to get my mothers account closed with Morgan Stanely and the funds release on an off for the past 7 years. I was told that I needed court documents, then I was told I required other documents, then that it was going to be turned over to unclaimed funds (which I encouraged, I could work that), all the while MOrgan Stanely has been deducting $50 a quarter for holding her money. I can’t name the numerous persons I have intereacted with, and then two days ago I get a phone call from the original person, who opened my mother’s account to tell me that they needed another document. Well let us see where this takes us.

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