Electronic Estates – Keeping a Record of Your Assets

Estate Planning Practice Group

Estate Planning Practice Group

With the advent of electronic banking and e-statements, the face of our financial recordkeeping has changed over the past few years. Along with this change has come the limited knowledge of and access to your financial information. This is great for security now – but it can cause problems for your family when you are no longer around if you do not plan ahead.

Prior to online banking, when a person died the family could easily discover assets of the departed through statements delivered via “snail mail” – the U.S. mail. Bank statements would arrive in the mail on a monthly basis. Most brokerage statements would arrive at least quarterly. Worst-case scenario would be the annual statement from a life insurance policy, but there was usually a previous year’s statement available for reference.

Today, most people do their banking online and access retirement account/401(k) information online as well. They receive statements online with notifications via email, and dividends are electronically deposited.

Your family may not have a list of all of your accounts and policies – especially if they are accessed online. Without a forensic expert, it may be impossible for family members to determine where the information is located. And remember: all of these records are password protected. In some instances, people are even using fingerprint recognition to access their computers and other password protected websites.

In order for your family members to be able to discover your assets (bank accounts, life insurance, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, etc.), it is vital to keep a list in hard copy of where you hold your accounts. While account numbers are helpful, those concerned about security do not need to provide this information. Keep this information with your estate plan documents and update it when you do your taxes each year.

Be sure also to provide your family members with important information such as the name of your lawyer, accountant, and financial advisor. By taking this important step, you can ensure that your assets are left to the beneficiaries you have set up through your estate plan.

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