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How should I prepare my partner to assume accounts I control?

Responsible estate planning takes into account the likelihood of outliving a partner, but often even those who intentionally plan for this eventuality forget key details that make the reality of losing a loved one an unnecessary nightmare. While your estate plan may cover the broad strokes of how the life you have built with a partner will change when one of you passes away, the safety and security of such a plan is often in the details.

It is important to make sure that any and all essential information and permissions needed to access your digital world are available when one of you passes away. Beyond having access to personal and social media accounts, it is essential to make sure that the surviving partner is able to access and manage online bill-pay accounts and any "joint" asset accounts that are in fact held by only one party. Without properly preparing for this transition, you may face costly and time consuming probate procedures, which can effectively keep you separated from assets that you should rightfully control and access.

Beyond passwords and usernames, it is wise to make sure that both partners have all the working knowledge they each need to effectively make the transition. This may be as simple as taking time to familiarize oneself with the family's preferred accounting software. It could be as relatively complex as making introductions between spouses and financial advisors and discussing where all of the family's various investments are held and why they are distributed the way that they are. It may seem daunting at the time, but for the party who is not the primary keeper and manager of these accounts and assets, the preparation will be well worth it when the time comes.

However, your particular estate plan is constructed, it is always wise to make sure that the relevant parties have all the information necessary to execute the various stages of the plan. Anyone with concerns about how to accomplish this most effectively can enlist the assistance of an experienced estate plan attorney to ensure that his or her estate plan is crafted and prepared for excellently.

Source: nextavenue.org, "I Planned for Life as a Widow, But Got a Lot Wrong," Ellen Uzelac, Aug. 17, 2016

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