A few weeks ago, I was traveling to New York City with a friend. We began chatting about a relative whose spouse had died. She had the unfortunate experience of needing to hire an attorney to unravel a lockdown of accounts because access had been denied. You see, the surviving spouse did not know the user names and passwords to their bank accounts, utilities, and credit cards. In these instances, he handled the finances and the couple used on-line statements. They also made payments on-line. Typically, utilities and credit cards are in only one spouse’s name, so these details often get overlooked when conveying information to caretakers. Women are especially vulnerable to being left in the lurch because they are statistically more likely to survive their spouse and the older generation of women were less likely to handle family finances.
To guard against these issues, you need to develop and track passwords for your electronic files. To create strong passwords, use a series of upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and symbols. I try to think of a phrase or song lyric, use the first letter of each word, and then add a number. It is also a good idea not to use the same password for all of your accounts.
The next hurdle is to store this information in a place that’s secure but available to a surviving spouse. You might consider downloading the information to a flash drive, saving it in an offsite lock box or even a discreet home location. Something as simple as creating a spreadsheet on-line, printing it, and then handwriting the passwords also works. There is a multitude of online services such as IPassword, KeePass, RoboForm, and Password Vault to consider. These services require a single user name and password to access and they keep track of all of your passwords. After accessing, the service prefills your user name and password entries automatically. Some security suites such as Norton’s Constant Guard are free to Comcast’s Xfinity® Internet customers.
The most important thing is to communicate your system to your spouse or Power-Of-Attorney, so that your financial wellbeing can be secured and your access won’t be denied!