If you've recently suffered a death in your extended family, you may be witnessing firsthand the potential consequences of failing to adequately plan for one's heirs. If someone dies unexpectedly, without a will, surviving family members may scramble to uncover bank accounts and other potential assets without many clues as to these assets' whereabouts.
However, in an age where large-scale security breaches and identity theft happen on seemingly a daily basis, you may be reluctant to leave a list of all your assets and financial accounts without taking precautions against this information falling into the wrong hands. What can you do to make this process easier for your surviving spouse or other family members? Read on to learn about several ways to keep this information secure, but easily accessible to the right people.
Get a safety deposit box
If you don't plan on opening any new credit cards, loans, or investment accounts in the near future, you may want to simply write a list of account names and locations and keep this list in a safety deposit box. Let your spouse or children know that you've left this information for them, and keep the key for the safety deposit box in a secure place. Upon your death and once an estate has been opened, your heirs should be able to access this safety deposit box and quickly gather your accounts for distribution.
Leave a list of accounts with your attorney
Another option that will eliminate the need for a safety deposit box is to simply leave a list of accounts with the attorney who handled your last will and testament. Keeping these documents with someone who has taken an oath to keep them safe and confidential is one of the securest options possible, and having the same person or firm handle your will and account distribution will save time and money.
Encrypt an electronic file on a hard drive
For those who would prefer to keep account information easily handy (but who worry about online security), typing a list of accounts and saving it in an encrypted form on an external hard drive or USB drive can let your spouse or family members quickly access this information, and even use the funds in your checking or savings accounts to pay bills while your estate is pending. You'll need to keep this hard drive or USB drive in a secure place and ensure that at least one other person knows the security key needed to un-encrypt this confidential information. Click here for more information on estate planning.