Marriage is a partnership. While many couples understand the importance of sharing everyday responsibilities, there's one aspect that often gets overlooked – sharing your passwords! And yes, sharing passwords to just about everything. If you’re married, you’ve most likely already commingled your finances, but this goes beyond merely having joint bank accounts. In this post, we'll explore why granting access to banking apps, investment portfolios, and even utility accounts is crucial in the unfortunate event of a partner’s death.
A Common Scenario:
In many marriages, it's not uncommon for one spouse to take the lead in managing household finances. This can often occur organically, with one partner focusing on their career or raising a family, while the other handles day-to-day financial responsibilities. However, this seemingly efficient arrangement can lead to complications down the line, which is why we always encourage our clients to bring their spouse into our meetings.
Consider the scenario where John is the primary financial caretaker. He manages budgets, investments, and bill payments through accounts in his name. Sarah is in the process of advancing in her career and parenting duties but has limited knowledge about their financial portfolio and budgets. How or why this is the case doesn’t really matter; what’s important to glean from this is the potential issues that become evident in the unfortunate event of John's unexpected passing...
In their marriage, everything related to finances was John's responsibility. He opened accounts in his name and stored secure passwords in an online password keeper accessible through his email only. Consequently, the automated bills set up through John's accounts resulted in missed credit card payments, and the oversight of not having Sarah's name on their utility accounts led to their lights being shut off until she could resolve the issue. While we could explore a lengthy list of potential scenarios, the key point remains clear: in times of grief, these additional stressors can prove emotionally and practically challenging for the surviving spouse.
The Solution: Shared Access
It's important to clarify that shared access doesn't require both spouses to be equally involved in financial management. If one partner has no interest in handling finances, that's perfectly acceptable. However, in the unfortunate event of a death, it is crucial that they have access to everything to facilitate smooth transitions and receive proper assistance from financial advisors, attorneys, or other professionals.
Key Accounts to Consider:
Credit Cards: Ensure both spouses have access or are listed as authorized users.
Investment Accounts: Grant dual access or designate beneficiaries to streamline the transfer of assets.
Bank Accounts: Joint accounts are common, but ensure both spouses can manage and access these accounts independently.
Business Information: If applicable, ensure both spouses have access to business accounts and related information.
Real Estate: Include spouses in property ownership and rental agreements.
Utilities: Grant access for bill payments to avoid service interruptions.
Emails: Shared access can be vital for communication and retrieving important information.
Medical Power of Attorney: In case of emergencies, ensure both spouses can make medical decisions.
These types of things provide a good starting point for making those account changes, but don’t limit your scope to what you see above. Ultimately, having a common place where passwords are stored and accessible by both spouses will be the most helpful.
During Apple’s most recent iOS update, they’ve added the ability to add Legacy Contacts for your Apple ID. Here is what their website says:
“Adding a Legacy Contact is the easiest, most secure way to give someone you trust access to the data stored in your Apple account after your death. The data may include photos, messages, notes, files, apps you've downloaded, device backups, and more”
This can come in handy in the case of an unexpected death, since it’s an easy way to gain access to most things stored in one’s phone.
Find more information here on Legacy Contacts:
To be proactive about keeping passwords secure, yet accessible, Keeper Security is an option to allow friends or family members to have access to all of your important online passwords:
These are just a couple of resources you can use to help make the process smoother in the case of an unexpected death (and no, we are not sponsored in any way by the companies or websites we’ve linked to). Do your research and find what works best for you! In this age of technology, there are so many options available.
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