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Estate Planning and Password Protection

November 21, 2018

While not directly related to estate planning, a more controversial issue arises about passwords. While any IT or tech person will advise against making a comprehensive list of your accounts and associated passwords, those same individuals might not regularly work with a segment of the population that may become ill or lose their memory. We password protect everything.

I met with a couple where the husband kept all of their finances on the computer and did all of their banking electronically. Husband and wife communicated well and had a mutual understanding of their financial picture. The problem: Husband kept all of his passwords on an app on the phone which was password protected. This can be a significant problem when the cell phone company will not cooperate.

There is no perfect solution in this electronic world. Perhaps you prefer to prepare the list of passwords and save it on paper, publish it to your attorney-in-fact under a durable power of attorney, or provide a copy to your legal counsel. Others recommend putting the passwords into a paper file and filing it at the back of your filing cabinet, backward. The list should be comprehensive and cover whatever assets you access (such as a bank card (such as an ATM), or electronic account whether for a bank, brokerage, credit card, loan, and even health-related information. It also helps to print out the most recent security questions and the answers too.

The paperless world presents a problem too. One could simply wait for the next bank statement to arrive in the mail in order to inventory assets. Not so easy when everything comes electronically via e-mail. How do you access the individual’s e-mail account without a password?