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Don't forget your passwords when developing your estate plan

You're drafting a detailed, well-thought-out estate plan with your attorney. You're stipulating your wishes for your assets clearly so that your administrators can carry out your wishes. You've also got powers of attorney designated to handle your finances and oversee your health care if you become seriously injured or disabled and can't speak for yourself.

There's just one problem -- no one knows how to get into your documents and records. Your email account, bank accounts other records and documents require passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs) and/or access keys to access. Even when people have that information, they may be prompted to answer questions about your elementary school, first concert and favorite vacation destination. Just to access anything on your computer or phone, they may need a code.

It's essential to have a list of the passwords and other access information you need to handle all of your financial and other online activities -- from logging into your email account to accessing your health insurance plan to paying your electric bill. If you don't have a list, it may take a little time to build one, but it's necessary.

Once you do, where do you put it so that it's safe, but accessible when needed? Don't place it in a safe deposit box. It may be some time before people can access it. If you have a safe at home, that's a better option. Your attorney can keep the combination in your file if no one else has it.

There are online services available that store password information. However, remember that anything you store online could potentially be accessed by hackers.

When you designate an executor and other fiduciaries, you may choose to give them your passwords and other access information. However, they need to keep it in a safe place. If you change any of it, you'll need to notify them.

It's best to talk with your estate planning attorney about how best to ensure that your information is accessible to those authorized to have it after you're gone. You could have one password-protected document with all of your information, so just one password is required to access it. Your attorney may be able to keep it and provide it to your designated fiduciaries when the time comes. If not, they can recommend some options for keeping this valuable information safe but easily accessible when needed.

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