Now that so much of our lives are lived online, we need a plan to prevent the loss of digital assets that include treasured family memories, financial accounts and, in some cases, entire businesses.
The loss of a spouse creates havoc for the surviving spouse or family members in new ways today. Access to a desktop computer, tablet, smart phones and other devices can be lost completely. Accounts that were on autopay may take months to be discovered and turned off. Just the simple act of paying the cable and electric bills can become time consuming, not to mention the potential for cryptocurrency or emails to be lost forever.
To help crack the codes, it many take hiring a tech person, and even then, it may prove fruitless. It can also take a lot of time, says Kiplinger’s recent article, “Make Sure Your Spouse Has Your Passwords.” The article explains that getting access to key financial and estate information has always been a critical issue for women. They’re statistically more likely than men to be widowed or may have a spouse who suffers from a serious illness.
With digital records and passwords, there’s no paper trail to help you locate accounts no one knew existed. It’s also common for women of all ages to delegate key financial and estate responsibilities to their spouse.
To address that problem, women need to organize both personal and financial records. This can include vital documents, like a will, powers of attorney for financial and health affairs, a living will and perhaps a trust. Women can also get organized with other important information, such as finding the warranty for a new TV, car titles, frequently contacted services (landscaper, electrician) and other professionals, like your CPA and insurance agent.
Make sure that, with your estate planning, you also check the beneficiary designations on life insurance policies or retirement accounts. People neglect to update these, after a spouse passes away. You should also confirm that your joint bank account actually is in both of your names. Get a credit card in your own name and get a copy of each spouse’s credit reports. You should also have a copy of your will secured outside of your safe deposit box.
You can use a digital password manager, or a plain old notebook. However, whatever system you choose, it will be better than nothing. Make sure family members know where the password information is kept, and consider an online solution, if the family is tech savvy.
Reference: Kiplinger (June 6, 2019) “Make Sure Your Spouse Has Your Passwords”