Digital and Electronic Information


When I first started practicing law, estate planning attorney's traditionally told their 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.  Today, that same advice might lead to disaster since most of our vital information is no longer kept on paper, but rather in one computer or another.

In this day and age, more and more people have become computer savvy (or at least savvy enough to be dangerous). Credit cards, bank accounts,pension funds, medical records and just about every other piece of important personal information is stored on line and password protected. With every new horror story about how some criminal is stealing passwords and compromising business records, we are encouraged to revise our passwords and to make them more complex.  And we are constantly warned never, ever to share them with anyone.

People are also making the decision 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. 

So what happens when Grandma passes away and no one knows her passwords?  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.

Clients should 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 as well.