Online banking is the norm these days and companies are urging everyone to “go green” and forgo paper statements. This makes the job of the Personal Representative (PR) or Executor a bit more difficult after someone dies. For the most part, the PR is able to get the necessary information and date of death values on assets by contacting the banks and asset management firms once the PR has Letters of Administration. In Maryland, DC and Virginia, it does not take long to get the requisite Letters of Administration and the PR is able to fairly quickly get the information that they need. We do see occasions, however, when the inability to access online accounts causes problems.
One issue is that, without a paper trail, it is difficult for the PR to know what accounts the decedent actually had. Another issue that crops up is that in order to open the estate and get Letters of Administration, the PR has to have some idea of the value of the decedent’s assets. If there are no statements to show what accounts the decedent had or how much, there may be a need to get a court order to get the bank to give you that information. This is especially true for a Small Estate where the Court will not open up the estate without exact date of death values on the assets.
Additionally, the PR will need to determine which bills to stop (and therefore reduce unnecessary continued expenses for these services) such as cell phone, cable and Internet services, newspaper delivery, and online services such as Netflix or Spotify. Others will need to continue in order to protect your assets, such as homeowner’s insurance. If you have set up automatic payment of bills, reviewing your bank and credit card statements may be the only way for your executor to discover these expenses. Without access to your passwords, some of these things can be missed.
There are plenty of password storage apps and websites. Some are free, and some require a one time or monthly payment. Those are handy but still require that someone be given the authority to access the passwords when needed. Another more informal option is to write down your passwords, keep them in a safe place, and make sure that a designated person knows where you keep them. Of course, as we all know, passwords change often and it is hard to keep up. The point is to have a workable system in place. Whatever works for you. Failing to do so will leave your family in the dark and feeling helpless not knowing what is out there that they need to deal with.