Twenty years ago, we always told our clients to make an inventory of their important information, give a copy to a child or trusted family member and leave a copy in a secure place for safekeeping. It’s amazing how much has changed in such a short time but that advice given today would be a recipe for disaster since most of our vital information is no longer kept on paper. It is kept in one computer or another.
In this day and age, even grandparents well into their seventies and eighties have become computer savvy. Credit cards, bank accounts,pension funds, medical records and just about every other important source of important personal information is stored on line and password protected. We have even begun to use encryption in our everyday lives. Rarely does a week pass when some new form of information is linked to a user name and a new password. With every new horror story about how bad guys in eastern Europe or the heart of Asia are stealing passwords and compromising the records of major banks or big box stores, we are encouraged to revise our passwords and to make them more complex. Of course we are constantly warned never, ever to share them with anyone.
Keep in mind that folks are also electing to go paperless. That means no utility bills, cable bills or store bills. Each such account comes equipped with its own user name and password. Add alarm codes. And of course there are the passwords to the computer . The plot thickens.
So what happens when Granny dies with all of her passwords locked securely in her cranium? Ultimately it will probably be possible to unlock all of her financial information once her assets are identified when the 1099 forms start arriving after the first of the year . However, it certainly would be far easier if passwords and user names were stored in a safe place known to a trusted relative.
We have long been telling our clients to store their wills, cemetery information and other important documents in a location accessible to a trusted relative or friend. These documents now should be joined by your electronic records.