California Document Preparers’ comprehensive Living Trust package includes a section for listing contact information for key service providers--your doctors, financial advisors, CPA, pharmacy, etc. We want you to be thinking about those people your spouse or children would need to contact in an emergency or if something happened to you.
We manage our lives via our online accounts
These days, many people manage their lives via their online accounts, so providing access to these digital accounts has become a critical part of the information transfer process. Below are some of the ways that we use our online accounts; but remember that for every account, there’s a login and password:
- The cloud. The cloud has become a huge repository of data. Think you’re not using the cloud? You may need to rethink this if you’re sharing files on Dropbox.
- Social media. Social media has transcended generations; many grandparents log in to Facebook every day to stay in touch with colleagues and friends and find out what their kids and grandkids are up to.
- Online billpay. We pay our bills online, but in many cases, even that transcends a single online banking account. We create logins and passwords for our PG&E account, our insurance and telephone carriers. If we have brokerage accounts, we follow the ups and downs of the market via our accounts’ login information.
- Online pharmacies. Those of us who’ve wearied of waiting in endless lines at the pharmacy love the ease of logging in to our Walgreens or CVS accounts, ordering our meds and having them mailed to our homes.
- Loyalty programs. Don’t forget loyalty program benefits--frequent flyer miles and credit card rewards--all of these are accessed via logins and passwords.
While we love the convenience of our online lives, password-protected information can wreak havoc on the families and fiduciaries who are trying to wrap up estates or deal with probate after the death of a family member. There are potential risks in not being able to quickly access account information.
- Identity theft. Family members need to access account information quickly so that a deceased’s identity is not stolen. Until authorities update their databases regarding a new death, criminals can open credit cards, apply for jobs and get state identification cards under a dead person’s name.
- Cancellation of services until the estate is closed. Electronic bills for utilities, loans, insurance and other expenses need to be discovered quickly and paid to prevent cancellations. Without power the furnace may not run, which means the pipes may freeze. If the security system is shut off, a home may be burglarized.
- Avoid losing personal stories. Assets that are stored behind login information may have little monetary value but tremendous personal value to family members. In the old days, people kept letters, journals and scrapbooks. Today this material is stored online and often is never printed. Personal blogs and Twitter feeds have replaced physical diaries, and email messages have replaced letters. If family members don’t have access to these accounts, important stories may be lost forever.
- Protecting secrets. An attorney or physician may have files containing confidential client information.
Not enough to just list your digital assets; you need to update them
Planning for digital assets may be the price we pay for the convenience of our online accounts. Digital asset information changes constantly—we’re continually opening new accounts or changing passwords. The legal documents that contain this information must be updated accordingly or they become meaningless.