After her father suffered a debilitating stroke at age 62, a 33-year-old estate planning attorney tried to gain access to his business computer but none of the passwords she used were successful. The father had not left a list of his passwords with anyone and he used his personal email account to help run his building supply company.
The family did not know what orders were coming in, who the business owed money to, who to bill or what orders had been filled. After one month, Yahoo provided the family with the password but after court order. Because of the long wait, the father’s business was forced to close because no one except the father had access to crucial digital information about the business.
Before the days of tablet computing and wireless networks, organizing a person’s records meant paper documents and sorting through the mail says one estate planning attorney. Today, if a family cannot access computer or online accounts, acquiring access is no easy task. According to a survey conducted by the American Bankers Association last year, more than half of all bank customers age 55 and older prefer banking online. One year earlier, only 20 percent of the same age group preferred to bank online.
As more people’s personal and financial lives are connected to the internet, the more important computer passwords become in allowing important access to online accounts. The policies to gain access among firms and companies are different and many require documentation like a death certificate and a court order. To avoid a difficult estate administration process it is important to think about your digital life when creating your estate plan.
One estate planning expert suggests creating a list of professional, financial and personal online assets, including usernames and passwords. The list should be kept somewhere safe like in a safe or bank deposit box. Like with other estate planning documents, at least one other person should know the whereabouts of the list.