Our digital footprint is growing nearly every month as we subscribe to more and more services that we manage over the internet via our phones and computers. Technology, especially when it comes to managing our financial assets has given us luxurious speed and convenience. Many banks (and even some credit unions) allow for mobile deposit. I have personally tried it and I love it. There are some limits of course, but the fact that you don’t have to wait in line, fill out the deposit slip, and look up your account number (if you don’t have it memorized) is outstanding. You just take a couple of pictures, upload it to the bank app and typically within a day you have access to the funds.
The services are getting so numerous and unique to each person that they are the only ones who know how many and what services need to be terminated upon the person’s passing.Convenience comes with a price, though it is not always monetary. One price is that we place more and more of our financial information on the internet, leaving it more vulnerable to misuse. I have started advising my clients that they need to sit down and make a record of the subscriptions and services they have acquired and leave the list in their Estate Plan. The question arises in Estate Planning how do we clean up this digital footprint?
Many of these subscriptions come with monthly payments. A list with the subscriptions would be a valuable tool in helping heirs wrap up the estate. Even more helpful would be the list along with all the user names and passwords to access those accounts. Of course you can always show the companies copies of death certificates and maybe some of the companies would even accept a scanned copy via email, and you could eventually accomplish a closure of the accounts, but with account access you are able to close the accounts in a matter of minutes rather than hours.
A word of caution, make sure the list with accounts, usernames, and passwords is kept safe and secure. It would be a gold mine for an identity thief. Keeping it with your estate plan is a good idea as long as it remains in a fairly inaccessible location.
As our interdependence with internet grows, so will our need to leave our loved ones with the ability to wrap up our affairs in hassle-free manner. In doing so we show our loved ones how much we care about.