In our new “paperless” world in order to go green, save both money and time. Companies are now pushing you to drop your paper record for online paperless. Banks, credit cards providers, brokerages, mutual fund companies, stores, internet businesses and your utility providers are all asking you to help them save printing and mailing costs, our forests and the environment in general by going to paperless recordkeeping. For all your financial and household accounts, bills and statements. Your financial records and account information are an essential part of your estate planning.
While this push towards a less paper intensive life for our families is intended to make our lives less stressful, better organized and more accessible to records, it also raises an issue concerning our estate planning efforts. How do you track and manage all the different passwords, user ID’s security questions answers and website addresses where your financial and household records are held online? How can you make it easy for your spouse, successor trustee or executor to find these records and accounts so they can deal with the various financial institutions and service providers without a lot of hassle when they have to step up and manage your affairs or settle your estate?
One method is to create a master list of all websites, User IDs, passwords and security questions you have set up to keep your online financial and household account information secure. Remember, not everyone is going to know the name of your first pet. Make sure that your spouse, heirs, and executor know where you keep the list or how to access it if stored online.
Just to be safe keep both an electronic copy on your computer backed up to an online secure server of course and a paper copy (I know not very “paperless”) in your safe or safety deposit box if you have one. Make sure you review the list and keep it updated when passwords change, the company security protections are updated or you add new accounts to your online recordkeeping world. At a minimum, review this list at least annually such as when you are putting together your information for filing your taxes. You will be accessing these records anyway so why not make sure the list is up to date, change your passwords or security questions.
Another area to consider including on this master list of accounts are your logins and passwords for your email accounts social network accounts and vendors where you have online accounts such as Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Netflix and others. While all companies have procedures for providing spouses, heirs, executors or power of attorney agents the passwords and access to accounts once a person dies or is incapacitated, they may require that you provide a copy of the person’s death certificate, a court order or have a power of attorney for the agent to access your email accounts and other online records. These time consuming and frustrating procedures can be addressed by maintaining an up to date list of your online accounts and access information.