A client recently lost her spouse of several years. She told me that by far the worst problem she had dealing with his affairs was that she had no passwords or usernames to log on to his financial and social media accounts. It can be a frustrating and time consuming problem, especially when there are no paper records to refer to, only online data.
Online access to records has modernized life in the last few decades. Instead of having to rely on your own math skills to determine how much money you had in the bank, or wait for a statement to come to your house in the mail, you can just log-in to your account on your computer, and now smart phone, to see how much money you have. Online access has made paying recurring bills be able to occur automatically. Online access has even granted instant access to IRAs and Annuities, which normally only sends out statements once a quarter, if you get paper statements at all. Online access has even allowed IRA and Annuity clients to update their account beneficiaries easily and efficiently.
However, this ease of access becomes almost impossible after death. This is because it is rare for people to disclose or intelligibly write down their usernames and passwords for their various online accounts. While it is smart to not disclose login details while alive, it is advisable to leave a list with all usernames and passwords. The list can be on a personal computer or kept with other important documents, such as a will or tax forms. It is important to tell a trusted family member or friend how to find login details, so that the list can be found and utilized.
An alternative to a list are some products such as LastPass, which can generate passwords for you and store all your passwords. You can designate someone you trust to get access to the data.
Having access to a person’s accounts after they have passed makes canceling utilities and other recurring bills much easier. Instead of having to wait for a bill to even know that there is a service to cancel and then calling and canceling, with online access canceling a service takes a couple of minutes and doesn’t add another month of expenses. Online access to IRAs and Annuities allows for direct downloads and uploads of claim forms instead of having to wait to receive claim forms and then mailing the forms back to the company. Finally, having online access makes communication with the company much easier.
This can save time, money and frustration for the survivors, and is an important component of estate planning in these times.