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The importance of passwords in estate planning

Spouses in Florida should make sure that they have a thorough understanding of the family finances and access to one another’s passwords in case one of them dies. This can be particularly important for women, who are more likely to be widowed and less likely to handle the financial issues in a marriage.

Even people who have the important documents in place, such as wills and powers of attorney, may be caught up short by other elements they are unaware of. For example, some people do not realize that beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, life insurance policies and similar accounts override instructions in a will or a trust and do not keep this information updated. If one spouse has always handled things from household repairs to taxes, the other spouse may find it difficult to access this information when it is most needed. One woman found she had no way to access her husband’s multiple devices after his death. This included several tablets, phones and hard drives. It took more than a year for IT professionals to get into the tablets and phones.

While security professionals often advise against writing down passwords, some people accept this risk because a written list can make it easier for loved ones to access these accounts. This can be a backup to a digital password manager.

One important aspect of ensuring that family members can access these accounts is reviewing website terms of service. Some do not permit this access even if a user shares passwords with others. State laws also address what kind of access to digital assets is permitted. Good communication with loved ones about both digital and other assets and a person’s wishes for what will happen to those assets may help ensure that there is less confusion and conflict.

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