Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

Estate Planning: Passwords

I remember paying my monthly bills before the internet.  I would once a month, gather the stack of bills, write out a check for each one, enter it into my check register, put the check and the payment stub into the envelope, put on a stamp and mail.  Sometimes, this took a couple of hours.

Now, most bills are automatically debited from my checking account or are charged to a credit account.  For the few that do not have this feature, I go on line to the creditor, click a “pay amount due” button and the payment is made.  This now takes a few minutes per month.

This is great!  But not if you become disabled or die without leaving a roadmap.

How would your family know which bills are automatically debited? and from which account?

How would they know if the bill is automatically charged to a credit card?  and to which one?

How would they know which bills need to be paid by going to a website?  There is no notification received in the mail.

Once they go to the website, how would they access your account information?  What is the user name?  the password?

Where are your bank accounts?  What are the user names and passwords for those?

While this is a great convenience for those of us who love the on-line ease of bill paying, this is also a nightmare for agents under a Durable Power of Attorney or a Personal Representative or Trustee.

For this reason, it is vitally important that you leave a listing of all accounts, including the name of the institution, its website address, your account number(s), the user name and passwords.  Also, you must list whether the billing is automatically paid, and from what account.  If a bill must be manually paid, that must be listed as well.

These lists must be kept up to date when you change your passwords.

Finally, if you have a password to get onto your laptop or desk computer, that needs to be written down as well.  Put this information in a secure place, but tell your agent(s) and family where the information is so that it can be accessed in the event of need.

Leave a roadmap.

Leaving a Roadmap to Assets

You have a Will or a Trust.  You are finished with your estate planning, right?  Not quite.

You know what you own, but will your Personal Representative or Trustee?

Make a listing of your assets – better yet – make copies of documents and include these with your estate planning documents so that your Personal Representative or Trustee will have a clear outline of exactly what you own.

Real Estate: How many parcels and where are they located?  Make a copy of the deed(s) and a property tax statement for each.

IRA’s, 401 K’s, Annuities: Prepare a listing of all of your tax deferred assets together with the beneficiary for each.  Make a copy of your recent quarterly statement for each so that your Personal Representative or Trustee has the name of the financial institution and the account number.

Life Insurance: Get the policies together.  If you don’t know where they are, someone else won’t either.  List the policies with the name of the company, the value and the beneficiary.

Cash Assets: Make a listing of the accounts.  Make a copy of your recent quarterly statement for each account showing the name of the financial institution or bank and the approximate value.  If you have listed a beneficiary on the account or have a transfer on death (TOD) provision, note that as well.

Vehicles, Boats and Trailers: Make a listing of these items together with their identification numbers, physical location and value.  Make copies of the titles for each.

Valuable Personal Property: Precious metals (gold or silver bullion or coins), stamp collections, wine collections, artwork, antiques, should all be listed with identifying information, the physical location of the item and the approximate value.  Best is to take a photograph of each item and place the photographs with the listing.

This roadmap will be invaluable for your Personal Representative or Trustee.  The death of a loved one is a stressful time.  It will ease the burden if your estate is organized.