With most bank customers receiving financial statements electronically instead of on paper, there are some actions you need to take to be sure your accounts are incorporated into your estate planning. Do you use passwords for your accounts? Of course you do. Should you incorporate your passwords into your estate planning? Absolutely you should. Not only your financial accounts, but what about your social media accounts such as Facebook? Would you like a loved one to take control of your Facebook account after you die or become disabled? How do they take control? When is the last time you saw a physical copy of a photograph? Nowadays photos are stored in the cloud. How does your family access those photos? Is sharing passwords the simple answer (it is not)? Does sharing passwords violate the law (it does)? Good estate planning no longer is limited to the stuff you can touch and feel. Much of our lives are saved in the cloud. This is what we call digital asset estate planning.
Kiplinger’s recent story, “Your Estate Plan Isn’t Complete Without Fixing the Password Problem,” says that having online access to investments is a great convenience for us. We can monitor bank balances, conduct stock trades, transfer funds and many other services that not long ago required the help of another person.
The bad thing about these advancements, is that they can make for a very difficult situation for a surviving spouse or executor attempting to determine where the assets of a deceased person are held.
This was in the news recently, when the founder and CEO of a cryptocurrency exchange died unexpectedly. Gerry Cotten didn’t share the password to the exchange’s cold storage locker—leaving $190 million in cryptocurrency belonging to his clients totally inaccessible. Investors may never see their funds again.
You can see how important it is to provide a way for someone to access your data, if you become incapacitated or die.
The easiest, but least secure answer is to just give your passwords to a trusted family member. They’ll need passwords to access your accounts. They’ll also need a password to access your email, where electronic financial statements are sent. Another simple option is to write down and place all passwords in a safe deposit box.
Your executor or guardian/attorney-in-fact through a power of attorney (in the case of incapacitation) can access the box and your passwords to access your computer, email and financial platforms.
This is a bit safer than simply writing down and providing passwords to a trusted friend or spouse. However, it requires diligence to keep the password list updated.
Finally, the most secure way to safely and securely store passwords is with a digital wallet. A digital wallet keeps track of all your passwords across all your devices and does so in an encrypted file in the cloud.
There’s only one obstacle for an executor or surviving spouse to overcome—the password for your digital wallet.
Reference: Kiplinger (April 19, 2019) “Your Estate Plan Isn’t Complete Without Fixing the Password Problem”