With most bank and investment customers receiving financial statements electronically instead of on paper these days, your estate plan should include providing your executor or trustee with your important passwords when you die.
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, however, 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 if they cannot locate passwords after a person dies.
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 as part of your estate plan.
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, trustee, or attorney-in-fact through a power of attorney 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, a convenient, modern and secure way to 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, making it easy to locate all passwords when you die.
There’s only one obstacle for a trustee or executor to overcome—the password for your digital wallet! Speak with your estate planning attorney about how to include that and other passwords with your important estate planning legal documents.
Reference: Kiplinger (April 19, 2019) “Your Estate Plan Isn’t Complete Without Fixing the Password Problem”