Estate Planning for Online and Electronic Financial Accounts

After obtaining access to a person’s e–mail accounts and U.S Mail deliveries, another important step in dealing with the person’s incapacity or death is to locate information about the person’s financial world. In the digital world, Intuit’s Quicken and Microsoft’s Money are the two leading personal financial software programs, and they are a good place to start looking for information about a person’s assets and liabilities. However, that Microsoft Money is no longer offered for sale. In addition to software programs on a persons computer, online personal finance Web sites are also available to track personal finances, such as Tax return software, such as TurboTax, TaxCut (also called H&R Block at Home), and Tax Act, as well as electronic copies of tax returns, are also excellent sources of a person’s financial information.

Not only banks, but also brokerage firms, credit cards, lenders, and other billers increasingly are offering Internet accounts that can be used to check balances, pay bills, and review statements. After these financial accounts are identified, Internet access to the accounts may be convenient for family members and fiduciaries, but Internet access is not necessary. Instead of obtaining Internet access to financial accounts when a person becomes incapacitated or dies, the appropriate fiduciary instead can contact the financial companies in person or by mail to arrange for convenient access to statements, to authorize control or transfer of assets, and to pay for liabilities. It is also important to check on automatic deposits and bill payments as soon as possible and stop automatic transactions, if necessary.

To prevent fraud or unauthorized access, it may be prudent to change the person’s passwords to the Internet accounts or shut off Internet access to those accounts entirely.

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