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Chappaqua Man Wants to Save Peoples' Funds from Loss

Lester Himel is a founder of Heir Atlas, which is meant to help keep track of assets and benefits that loved ones may need.

When a family has lost one of its own through death, or someone has become disabled, those closest to them may not be aware of funds benefits they had, argues Lester Himel.

“It's common place for spouses who control the finances in family to not tell their spouse where everything is or what everything is."

These lost items can range from money to an insurance policy, he explained. 

Himel, a Chappaqua resident of more than two decades, hopes to help people keep better track of their assets and benefits through his online company, called Heir Atlas.

Himel, who got the idea for the service in 2011, has roughly three decades of financial service experience, including institutional bond sales and personal finance. A co-founder, he has two partners in Heir Atlas and serves as its chief executive officer.

Founded last year, it functions as a service for people to catalogue their services, whether it is health insurance or life insurance, or existence of items such as financial holdings and wills. Account numbers and values for them are not required, however.

“We don't advertise, we don't sell data," Himel said. "Every bit of communication from us is considered to be sacred."

The concept of Heir Atlas is to offer a centralized experience, its website, heiratlas.com notes, as opposed to keeping documents and data scattered in different places, such as shoeboxes and spreadsheets.

Aside from storage, the service also relies on customers listing trusted people that they know, who would be contacted in the event of a serious emergency. It can also be used to list professional advisors, such as attorneys and accountants. 

Heir Atlas also employs its billing system for its subscription-based product, which can work automatically, as a way to find out if someone is in trouble. If payment is not received, then three attempts of contact will be made; if the attempts are not successful, then people in the trusted network will be reached.

Personal care information can also be stored with the service, including information for responsibility of loved ones and pets.

“You can put everything in there," Himel said.

Himel feels that the current ways of life and asset planning are flawed, feeling that conventional means such as relying on individual advisorys do not hold up. For example, Himel notes that the advisors, such as accountants and attorneys, might not remain in their roles.

“Nothing could be further from the truth," Himel says about the idea that advisors can be relied on for a long-term period.

In the financial services sector, for instance, Himel believes that there is an incentive to contact current clients for the purpose of making sales.

“They are sales models, not service models. Our business is a service model.”

Going forward, Himel considers co-branding Heir Atlas' service with other businesses, such as insurers, as a possibility. 

“It will be a big part," he said for the company's future.

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