Creating a Road Map to Your Digital Information

In an ever-increasing paperless world, it is becoming more important to create a plan for your survivors to follow when navigating your online financial accounts. Prior to the digitalization of financial records, when a loved one passed on, organizing financial records was a fairly straight forward process consisting of gathering any bank statements or other documents, which were kept in files at the loved one’s office or safe deposit boxes.

With the increased use of online account, however, many families are finding it far more difficult to untangle the financial affairs of their deceased loved ones. The article from the New York Times suggests five simple steps individuals should take to ensure their loved ones can effectively maneuver their financial records should they become incapacitated or die.

The first step is creating and maintaining a list of all account numbers and passwords. There are Internet companies that will do this for you, but they largely remain unused. Simply drafting a word document containing the relevant information should be sufficient.

Next, you should send the information to a person whom you trust. Generally this is the person who has already been granted the power of attorney should you become incapacitated or named as the trustee should you die.

The third step is make sure there are other people who are aware of this information so that they know whom to contact should the need arises.

The fourth step is creating a list of instructions for how everything should be handled. The final and most important step is to leave all of this information with your estate plan and keep the information updated on a regular basis. Taking the time now to gather this information will save your loved ones time, money and anguish to gain access to your financial information later on down the road.

One final point of interest, those people who are entrusted with your information should be aware that they should not login to these sites under your name but should access the accounts legally if needed under the power of attorney with permission from the financial institutions.