When I started gearing up to care for my parents and found every shortcoming in the estate planning process, I wasn’t so worried about the management of my parents digital assets and accounts. Initially, I was challenged by my Dad who used email and would renew online subscription requests and order products he never remembered buying. As his dementia progressed, his use of email and the computer at all decreased. There came a day when he just stopped.
However, to survive, I set up online access to many of their accounts so I could pay bills and manage their money on their behalf. While I held a Durable Power of Attorney, some institutions just refused one that was more than 2 years old and others were not just laborious to file but took more than a few weeks to be processed. The process with Social Security took more than a few months. My Dad helped me do this since it was their intent to have me help them.
However, for many of us — especially those of you reading this post online — you probably have a lot of online accounts. A report from Symantec a few years ago reported than the average American has 28 accounts. I know that as a business owner, mom and caregiver, I’m closer to 80. I religiously record them and keep my list of access codes updated. My family knows where to find them.
Motley Fool posted a story on How to Prepare your Digital Assets for Death. While I didn’t find it explicitly helpful, it did validate the real issue is that there is no Federal legislation governing how to handle digital assets. In reality, we need to prepare our digital assets so they can be accessed before death. At the age of 40, forty-three percent of Americans will have a long-term disability event before they are 65. Your fate and access to your accounts is dictated by the provider. When you accepted the “Terms and Conditions” you agreed to their rules. Some states have passed legislation, but it’s going to be messy if you need to count on the that to access or close down accounts.
Not only do I divide and conquer household tasks with my husband, we share usernames and pass codes when it comes to financial matters. I have two children under the age of 18 that use a variety of online accounts. The house rules require that they share the usernames and pass codes because without them — even as a parent — I would be refused access. They write them down and seal them in an envelope I never intend on using.
There are many documents and details you should organize in case a loved one needs it. Access a free 5-minute tutorial to get your list of usernames and pass codes documented. I hope this helps you take ownership of your digital assets. Instructed.
If you want to get all of your papers and accounts organized, you should consider getting a MemoryBanc Register. This workbook and reminder service will walk you through the process of collecting information and prompt you when it’s time to update your information.
Whats in that Online User Agreement You Accepted?