How to Avoid Password Pitfalls

March 3, 2023

Help your loved ones Help you

By Brad N. Baker

Beware the trap of passwords

We are more and more a password-protected world.

This combination is causing unexpected heartache and frustration.

We are having trustees arrive in our offices to administer a trust for a loved one who has died and the trustee has no ability to determine the trust assets much less administer them – because they do not have any of their loved one’s passwords.

Their loved one who died, the decedent, had conveniently gone paperless and had protected all of his assets in accounts with passwords…that were unknown to the successor trustee staring across our conference table.

Trying to locate past tax returns that could give us some clues as to where accounts might be located is a time-consuming and hit-and-miss endeavor since tax returns are now filed electronically. (TurboTax has not been kind to us.)

In the old days, we just waited for the mail to arrive showing us account statements and what bills needed to be paid. We are not advocating that we return to the good old days, but we are cautioning our clients to have a password plan of sorts.

One of my favorite elderly widows appeared to have a wonderful password plan. She had taped her passwords to the underside of the second drawer of her desk and had notified us along with two of her close friends where the passwords could be located.

She called me six months later and explained that her knees were killing her. She had to get on her hands and knees each time to change the passwords! (Her list is now in the third book from the left in her bookcase.)

There are password manager applications available to us all, but we need the computer password and the program password to obtain the ever-increasing list of passwords foisted upon us.

The password issue is not just an issue for the elderly. We recently had parents in our office whose son had died in a traffic accident, and the Verizon family plan had been set up by their son. They couldn’t pay the plans invoices, and they could not terminate their plan. (I never did hear what the family eventually did.)

This is not only a problem when a loved one dies, but also if one becomes incapacitated from sickness or accident. Many bills still need to be paid if someone is too ill or injured to take care of their finances.

Do I have a solution for you? I wish that I did.  The best I can do is identify this important issue so that each of you can devise your own plan to avoid the password trap.

Keeping passwords safe, but not so safe that no one can access them, is a 21st Century problem that is not going to go away. I wish for you to have the peace of mind that comes with devising a plan that fits your needs.

Please Note: This document does not constitute legal advice. Please consult an attorney for legal advice on what to do in a particular situation.

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“We are having trustees arrive in our offices to administer a trust for a loved one who has died and the trustee has no ability to determine the trust assets much less administer them – because they do not have any of their loved one’s passwords.”