Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Help Your Loved Ones by Giving Them Financial Digital Access

“It was the worst period of my life,” admitted fifty-eight-year-old Greer Klausen. “You never expect to lose your husband at sixty. We were going blithely on with our lives when he had a heart attack. I was literally cut out of everything except our joint account. I didn’t know how to get into his computer. I couldn’t even let his friends know what happened because I didn’t have access to his electronic address book.”














Greer’s story is becoming more common very year.  We now reside in a digital world where vital information is stored on a computer, on a hand-held device, or on a smart phone with password protection.

When Greer’s sixty-year-old husband died of a heart attack, Greer could not access his laptop, his iPad, his smart phone, or any of his online bank accounts. If Greer did not have her own bank and access to a join account between her and her husband, she would not have been able to fund the funeral.

As a wills attorney in Orange County, I want to emphasize the importance of giving your loved ones access to all your digital accounts. It’s simple logic, but most people don’t think about it.

At a trying time like mourning a loved one, worrying about money and how to access records is cause for more unnecessary stress. Passwords for things like computers, email accounts, online bank records and debit cards should be stored in a secure location and updated whenever passwords are changed. Don’t store them on your computer and don’t store them in your will; it is not secure to do so.

Without vital passwords or usernames, your loved ones will not be able to save and store important information that you wouldn’t want deleted.  Pictures, paid online accounts, and emails are just a few things that could be lost in the event of your death.  If a trusted friend, spouse, executor or lawyer does not have access to these accounts, then NO ONE can get in.

Gaining access requires a court order, which takes an excess of time and money.

Situations like Greer’s are easily avoidable. It’s a simple matter of setting up the information and informing a trusted relative, friend, or professional about the file’s existence and location.  Then, keeping it updated. But because the digital age came on so rapidly, many of us don’t take things like digital access into consideration when doing estate planning.  As an Orange County attorney specializing in wills, I am determined to changes this.

What Not to Do

Vital information like usernames and passwords should never appear in your will.  No matter how safe you think your will is, it becomes a public document the moment you die.  Usernames and passwords are not something you want listed on a public document.

If you have a living trust, you could include your passwords in the trust document, because this is a private document. However, because passwords should change regularly, your living will is most likely an inconvenient spot for them to be stored.

The Best Plan

The best plan is to keep things simple. Create a list of digital information.

The file should include:

ü  your user names and for which device
ü  passwords linked to each user name
ü  PINs, and their related online bank accounts
ü  Credit cards with online accounts and related PINs
ü  Insurance policies and online account information

Be sure to tell your loved ones how to view this file, and keep it updated. 

Make sure to Include details about accessing:

·       Computers
·       Laptops
·       Handheld devices like tablets
·       Smartphones
·       Internet service providers
·       Web hosting services
·       email accounts
·       blogs
·       Photo storage programs
·       social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn
·       Online subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, journals…
·       Direct debit or automatic renewal things like magazine subscriptions, AAA, AARP…
·       Dues to service clubs, professional organizations…
·       financial sites : banks and brokerage firms where you have money invested or borrowed
·       mortgage providers
·       automatic bill-paying
·       software: tax return, legal document preparation programs
·       website favorites or bookmarks


If you need assistance planning your estate or would like more information on digital access, contact Tompkins Law today. 

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