When Georgia residents begin the estate planning process, they often focus on wills, trusts and end-of-life medical planning. One area that might be overlooked is password access for electronic devices and online accounts. Not having these passwords can make the process very difficult for loved ones and estate executors.
Many people manage their personal and business finances online. Banks and investment brokerages offer online account access, and consumers often rely on online services to pay their utility, mortgage and other bills. In addition, people often keep in touch via email and social media messaging. When someone dies, those who are charged with managing and closing the deceased’s estate may need access to these accounts.
Unfortunately, getting access to these accounts can be difficult if the deceased did not share passwords with a trusted family member, attorney or estate executor. Getting access to these accounts can be an arduous process, creating stress for family members and potentially causing missed payments while the accounts are either shut down or transferred to an heir.
While providing a list of passwords to an attorney or executor as part of the estate planning process is one way of addressing this issue, it has a major drawback. Many people routinely change their passwords either because it’s required by account companies or as a matter of personal security. When somebody updates a password, they may forget to pass this information on to a responsible party.
Some experts suggest using a secure password service or digital wallet that keeps track of password changes. An attorney or executor could be given access to the digital wallet where all passwords are safely stored. This would permit responsible parties to begin the task of transferring accounts to survivors, ensuring that obligations are met when closing an estate.