Who Do You Trust with Your Money?

Call me morbid, but over the weekend I started thinking about what would happen if I died suddenly. Not the big stuff like who would have custody of my son - that’s already taken care of - but the things that aren’t important enough to be addressed in a will. Specifically, I thought about all my online accounts. What would I want to happen to things like my Facebook account, this blog, and my bills (all of which are online)? And who would I trust to do it?

Organizing Accounts

Last night I sat down to make a list of all my important online accounts. I was kind of shocked to see how many there are. Over the years, I’ve signed up for a blue million services, websites, and memberships. Some of them don’t matter - I don’t really care what happens to my Flickr stream, for example. I won’t even bother discussing all the blog-related and social media accounts because there are so many. But I was dumbfounded by the number of accounts related to my finances:

  • PayPal
  • 3 checking accounts
  • 5 savings accounts
  • 6 credit cards
  • Car loan
  • Student loans
  • Roth IRA
  • Traditional IRA
  • Utilities (electric, gas)
  • Phone
  • Internet
  • Health insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Car insurance

I spent about 3 hours typing out a new list of all those accounts, including the account number, my username and password, when the bill is due, how it’s usually paid, etc. I did the same for my cousin’s bills since I’m handling them while he’s gone to basic training. Finally, I made a list of everything related to blogging and freelancing, along with instructions for where to send the info if something happens to me.

Each list was saved as an encrypted file, then placed in a folder on my hard drive. I also backed it up to an external drive and emailed copies to myself, just in case.

So Who Gets All This Info?

It was pretty easy to decide who I want taking care of my information - my parents. My mom turns into an ostrich during crisis situations, but my dad handles things the way I do. I know he’ll take care of it, but I also want my mom to be involved in case something weird happens and my dad and I die at the same time.

For now, I’ve kept the lists in the places I mentioned before. But my dad will know where to find them, as well as the passwords to my computer and the files. The blog information will be sent to a fellow blogger, who I know will follow my instructions exactly and make sure my blogs and social media accounts are closed out or transferred appropriately.

Why Should You Care?

I think sometimes we take our easy access to technology for granted. When I was a kid, it was easy to track down a person’s information if they died - you just looked at the stack of mail everyone seemed to keep on a desk or coffee table. Maybe you waited a month or so for other bills to come in, or went down to the local bank branch to settle the person’s accounts. That was pretty much it.

Today, things are completely different. I don’t get anything in the mail but junk - I’ve moved to a completely paperless system (except for my stupid water bill, which is a whole other rant). My bills are deducted from my checking account automatically. Most of my bank accounts are through online banks that don’t even have branches. If I die tomorrow, it could prove very difficult for someone to make sense of what I have and how to access it.

No one wants to think about dying, but I’m sure you don’t want to leave your loved ones with a huge jigsaw puzzle to solve if the worst happens. I want to encourage all of you to get your financial and other accounts organized and in the hands of someone who’s capable of taking over in an emergency.

Are you prepared for the worst? How hard would it be for friends or family to make sense of your accounts if you died unexpectedly? Have you designated someone to take care of all your stuff?

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After years and years opening tons of accounts too, I have to say I do trust my paypal accounts (I have 2 one for me and one for my corporation) and also my banks - I'm probably jinxing myself, but I've been using them for ages. I also have a Scottrade account as my investing one stop shop. I used to have 3, but have recently closed and transfered them to Scottrade. I'm planning on doing the same with my banks, have only 1 bank rather than the 3 I have going on right now. It's too much and even though they are trustworthy, who has time to check all the time!

I really need to update my accounts list too. I had a health scare in 2010 that forced us to realize that I handle almost everything, and Bruce would have been lost trying to sort the mess out - not cool. So I made a master list, but it is outdated now, and needs to be done.

I updated my list last year and I was pretty shocked as well. My wife doesn't do much of the finance stuff so I had to make a list for her in case I am not available. A lot of passwords to remember!

I've been feeling a bit "mortal" lately, too. I've been telling myself to get more organized for a while now and just need to do it... I think I need "to do" a "to do" list and put this way on the top... :)

I think this is great advice for everyone. Everyone should have this type of information collected and entered somewhere, ideally as an appendix to a will or part of a living trust. I know that I need to update things, that's for sure.

Well, that went through illiterately. You should be sure the beneficiary forms on your IRAs actually designate the person who is to get the money. If it says "estate of XXX," that can cause difficulties. If the wrong person is designated, or someone who has passed away (after which you forgot to change the forms), or if an ex-spouse is designated, the beneficiary forms will supersede your will.

In that vein, check the beneficiary forms on your IRAs and checking accounts designate the person you want to receive this money.

Currently, my wife and I have sweetheart wills. Meaning, if I die it all goes to her, and if she dies it all goes to me. If we both go it goes to my parents and a trust for our future kids which they will get at 30 years old.

This is an important thing to think about. Like you, I my parents would take care of it. But I haven't planned everything out. Your post inspired me to take care of this soon!

Great post! I don't think people realize they should keep this information in their records for their loved ones to access in case of death or accidents. I just did this two weekends ago. I wrote down everything I could possibly think of on paper and stuck it in our family safe for my husband. One day I woke up and just freaked out thinking about death and my husband not being able to close accounts or access other accounts. I am morbid - I think about death and disaster often, as silly as it can be it has helped me become uber organized.

Thanks for the wake-up call--I have a ridiculous amount of these types of accounts, not to mention 7 work-related email addresses that would all have to be shut down...Oy! I'm certainly adding this to my to-do list; thanks!

I think Dave Ramsey calls this the "i love you drawer" or something like that.

I've got it all written down in one place, in a locked file cabinet and sent to my daughter (who lives in a different state). I want it to be as simple as possible for her. A friend of mine actually put his sons ON his bank accounts, with the idea that when he dies they will be able to take care of immediate expenses (cremation et al.) vs. waiting for the estate to be probated. I am going to try and put a chunk of cash in my daughter's Roth IRA each year from now on. Why make her wait until I die to inherit? Besides, compound interest is her friend.

I did this the other day, but it was more like a wallet audit. Someone was mugged at my regular bus stop a few weeks ago, and that really made me think about what's in my wallet and what would be lost if it was stolen. I made a list of all my cards, passwords, and account numbers, and removed important cards (like my birth certificate) from my wallet. But of course, I want to password protect the file and who should I give the password to? Most likely Mr. Dollars. I actually just finished setting up all the beneficiary crap (which I should've done long ago) a few weeks back. You're absolutely right though, it's so much more difficult to track down someone's personal info and all their accounts nowadays - I should add my social media and blog accounts to my master document ASAP.

My fiance would be the one to take care of all that. I've set up my beneficiary information for 401K & IRAs to have part of it go to my parents and part of it go to him. Everything else (cash accounts, personal effects, etc.) will go to him.

Very smart. It will now be on my to do list, though I can see it being one of those list items for a while. I have beneficiaries for some accounts, but it would help the beneficiaries to know that they exist and how to acccess them. Good post!

If I were still a practicing advisor, I'd push you to find someone other than your dad. Sadly, two things occur that people don't like: a) they forget to ever change the person who's going to handle things again; and b) something happens to dad before you. In a perfect world, it'd be someone younger than you so there's a big probability you won't have to ever touch it again.

That's a good point. Right now, though, I'm preparing in the event that I die young. At 29, there is NO ONE younger than me who I'd trust with all those passwords. And since my dad is only 54 and in great health, I figure I've got some time before I need to worry about changing things around.

I have to do a proper plan soon. I still have to write up a will and all that stuff but I don't have that much. As it stands today, my two largest accounts are joint accounts so those shouldn't be a problem. Other than that, I am sure my mom and dad can handle the rest of stuff. My blog, paypal and stuff like my emails, I have no idea what to do with those at the moment.

I've been putting off doing this for awhile. Better get on the ball, and start organizing my accounts, because I have a lot of them. Thanks for reminding me.

I was doing this the other day and then I got distracted and stopped in the middle of it. I, like you, have a million bajillion online accounts. I always think to myself..if I lost my memory and got amnesia, I'd be screwed. So I think this is a really important thing to do! I would send it to my BF, my mom, my dad, and my little brother and sister. You never know what could happen tomorrow!

I've thought about this, but haven't put anything into practice... I would really want my online identity to just be pulled if something happened. Everything closed and/or deleted. I think I would trust my sister to handle most things, but she's not very web-savvy so that worries me a little. All my money would go to my siblings.

I haven't done this yet. Right now it's not too big of a deal because I'm still in university, but when I open more savings accounts I'll definitely get on this.

I've been after my mom to do this for quite some time now. She just spent a week in the hospital with a nasty kidney infection, so I'm hoping that will spur her into action when she's feeling well enough to be on the computer. I need to practice what I preach 'cos I don't think Hubby knows how to access anything other than the checking account online. And, like you Andrea, I have several savings accounts for different things (insurance, emergencies, vacation, etc). Between Hubby and I, we've got six.

I have all of this information in an Excel file, the same one I use to pay bills. I just made different worksheets that show the monthly bills, my accounts and passwords, etc. I think my biggest concern is that my mom would be the one to receive this information, and I'm not sure she'd know how to use Excel. I guess that's a conversation we'll have next month when she visits.

This is also another thing that I need to do.

I'm leaving on a european trip soon and so will leave all my account information with my son who already knows that he's in charge if something happens to his father and I.

I've been working on this, but thanks for the reminder. My father in law passed away not long ago and my husband and his siblings had everything they needed. He was an older man, so there wasn't really that much to it, but all of the important decisions had already been made and at least one of them had access to every account and that sort of thing. They have really been an example of what needs to be done and how folks should relate to each other in a time like that. I've seen too many families handle things poorly with jealousy and hateful words and actions. Guess I've got a list to make. Thanks for the homework. ;-)

This is a great idea. When my mom passed away, I helped her write out this list which made it a lot easier for my dad after the fact. He didn't really have to think about this and I think this helped him.

Good post. Last year, when my Dad's cousin was dying, she gave me all her account passwords and told me what accounts she had. She had me take over her financial matters almost immediately as she just didn't feel up to doing much at all. She had cancer and had two months to take care of this stuff. I often think of how much harder my role in this would have been if she had died suddenly. I would have had no clue about all of her accounts or how to access them and things would have been even more stressful.

6 savings accounts? You could cut those down to maybe 2, right? I think this is a good wake-up call to everyone who manages everything online. You need to assign someone to take care of things if something happens to you.

Two of the savings accounts are my son's. The others are mine, and there are specific reasons why each exists. One is for taxes, for example. It's a complicated system but it works well for me.

I had actually never thought of this and it's a great idea. Plus I think if I had my passwords and usernames down for each online account I might not forget them so often, haha!

This is in my "list-of-things-to-do" pile :S I plan on closing a bunch of accounts in the near future but I do have to make some sort of "death folder" that will list assets/debts. Personally, I'm more scared of becoming uncapable of handling my affairs more than death. If I'm dead, the vultures will take my money but if I'm alive and need people to care for me, I'm going to need a financially responsible person in my life and I don't have that person yet...

This is something that I need to update. It has been quite a while and things have changed. It is on my to-do list, but is toward the bottom since I do have other pressing matters first.


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