Remember the days when all of your bills and various account statements showed up in your mailbox? Nowadays it seems the only thing that comes in the mail is junk. One of the main reasons our mail has changed so much is because we can now take care of all our bill paying, banking, and investing online. No mail, no stamps and in many instances, no paper statements.
This change to the online world of personal financial management has in many ways made our lives much more simple. However, this change can create many challenges in the event of a death or disability. You see, a quality estate plan addresses both death and disability planning, and it is important that your attorney-in-fact and executor can identify these digital accounts and assets when managing your affairs during a disability, or wrapping them up after your death.
In the past, prior to our world becoming so digitally entrenched, the process of gathering information regarding an individual’s assets was rather straightforward. You would simply go through the files in their desk to get copies of account statements and tax returns, and then just check the mailbox for the next few weeks to see what showed up. After about a month of checking the mail you had a pretty good idea of what assets and liabilities the individual had. However, this approach has become less and less effective over the years.
Many of us, both young and old, now receive our account statements and bills via email and manage our accounts online. So there are no files in our desk and no bills in our mailbox. A lot of us now file our income taxes electronically, and the only copy of our return is on our computer. This electronic world can create a host of problems for your attorney-in-fact or executor if they do not have the password to your computer and access to your other electronic information.
The best and most simple approach to deal with this issue is to maintain an account and device logbook. This logbook should contain all of your user names and passwords for all of your accounts. It should also include information regarding your social media and email accounts. Obviously, this logbook needs to be kept in a safe and secure location, but be certain your personal representative knows where to find it. If you don’t feel comfortable with you’re a friend or family member having access to that type of information, you may want to consider asking your estate planning attorney to keep it as part of your file, and then let your personal representative know who to contact if the information is needed.
Computers and the internet have certainly changed the way we live our day-to-day lives and they have certainly created new challenges for personal representatives and estate planning attorneys. A good estate plan should ease the burden of settling your estate, so be certain to prepare your executor to be a Digital Executor.
Paul Kellogg is an attorney in Cincinnati with the Phillips Law Firm, Inc. Paul’s practice focuses on providing comprehensive estate planning and probate services to families and business owners, as well as serving as outside general counsel to entrepreneurs and businesses where he provides guidance and advice on a wide variety of transactions and disputes. He can be reached at (513) 985-2500 or via email at [email protected]. Please explore Paul’s other articles on estate planning and business on the Phillips Law Firm Blog page.
The article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Anyone contemplating taking legal action is urged to obtain proper legal advice from an attorney licensed in your particular jurisdiction.