Christopher S. Nudo
Estate Planning Best Practices: How To Properly Document and Transfer Access to Accounts
Hello to all our viewers. It's good to be with you here today. I am Chris Nudo. I am an estate planning and real estate and business transaction attorney located in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. I have a Christian Based law practice and today we are going to be talking a topic that is near and dear to my heart and that deals with your digital assets. Before we get started, just a little background I’ve been doing this for about 30 years now, and there's been I've met with thousands of different families and have learned so much from each and every one of my clients just as I turn around and try and impart what the lord has given to me with regard to the knowledge and gifts that I can impart upon my clients with regard to today, estate planning and specifically things dealing with the digital realm. You know, we live in an increasing digital world and where so much of our life is managed by usernames and passwords and online accounts. Little statistic on average the average person has about 150 online accounts and if you're doing things correctly these days, that would be a minimum of 150 unique passwords. Now, I know many of you are laughing at this point because for a long time people use the same password for every account. So, you had 150 accounts and one password but that is just a terrible idea in this increasing digital domain where hackers and thieves and people who are out to hurt you can take advantage of your situation and so using one password for 150 accounts is not good having 100 150 passwords for 150 accounts is much better practice. So, you know, why do so many of us have one password for many accounts. Well, it's convenient and our brain's only so big and we say to ourselves, I can’t I can't I can't memorize all those passwords and I can't keep them organized and so on and so forth but something I want you to consider and this isn't just dealing with your life. It's dealing with after you die. If you're having trouble managing your digital life, imagine how difficult it is to reconcile or gain access or even manage and close somebody's digital life who has just died and that's where many people find themselves or if they don't find themselves in that predicament, what they do is they fail to plan appropriately so that when they die, people have adequate access to this new digital world that we all are trying to manage and live in. So, that's why I'm going to be sharing best practices for access and design and who to designate as a family member or trusted administrator with regard to your digital world to try and make it a seamless process. Now, let's first talk about organization. This would be kind of inventory your digital assets and I work very hard to try and do this and I know my system is far from perfect but let me try and outline first categories. So, when you think of inventory in your online world, you can't just go to every you have, you know, Netflix, Pandora, Chase Bank, your doctor's office, your Google password, you know, you can't just randomly grab all of your accounts and passwords and throw them into a list because nobody will be able to manage that. You need to start with broad categories. These are like headings if you would so that you can put passwords in below those headings. Not passwords as much as account information which includes passwords. So, let me give you just some categories that I wrote down here now and let me tell you that this was just brief list of categories, and it feels like an entire piece of paper. So, let me read you some of these. Medical subscriptions and medical information. This would include prescription information, doctors’ names, and phone numbers. The pharmacy that you most commonly use. How about key contact information? This would be who is your executor? What is their address? What is their phone number? This includes successor trustees. If you're estate is planned with a trust, how about. Wait. I forgot. I actually started this list on a different piece of paper. So, it actually took this little note and all of these in order for me to go through all of the organizational categories that I consider when putting together an inventory of your digital life. How about shopping sites? Have you ever thought about all the different sites that you've bought things at? That is a category in and of itself and can be huge. I recommend the username and password for all of your shopping sites. How about if you carry an iPhone, simply your Apple ID, Apple ID and password If you carry an Android phone, how about all the different ways to access your Google accounts? How about banks? Most of us have bank accounts at more than one bank and so, how to access those different banks. I think credit cards are a separate category than banks. Some may put them in the same category. I put them in separate categories. So, credit card access. How about home? How about your home? All the different things that people would need to know to access the digital realm in your home. like you have digital thermostat like a nest that needs login information. How about an alarm system like a ring alarm? How about let's see. Um, garage door. You know, funny a lot of garage doors now have apps that control them. Let's see. Those are the things I think about when I think of the home. Insurance is a whole category. This is health insurance, life insurance, maybe some annuities, maybe a health life. How about homeowners’ insurance, auto insurance, it just goes on and on. How do you access those accounts in the digital world? What we're finding is most people get their statements online and so the old practice of waiting thirty 90 days for the mail to deliver statements to discover what assets have those days gone by. It doesn't exist anymore because many of us don't even get paper statements anymore. So, having digital access to these accounts is critical. How about travel? This would include like you know, if you plan a trip, you didn't get to go on your trip and because you died and somebody wants to cancel the trip and try and get you a refund if they can't get access to the appropriate site where the bookings were made, they may not be able to get that refund. Taxes and government sites. Nobody thinks of this but like here in Illinois, we have a site called My Tax Illinois. So, wealth of information specifically about the taxes that I pay here in Illinois and had somebody having access to that would be very important. How about if you have kids in college and you have to fill out the FAFSA or global entry or TSA pre. These all are sites that it might be helpful if somebody had access to them. Email accounts. I don't know. Am I weird? But I have like three or four Email accounts. I probably have more than that actually, but you know, just saying and some it's you know, many of our accounts send notifications to our Email accounts. So, when you die, it's really important that somebody have access to those Email accounts but more than Email accounts, how about your computer, your computer, if it's a Windows, computer, probably needs a password. That is your Microsoft account and your Microsoft account, maybe different credentials than your Email account. Then, how about work? There should be a place where work information is kept and work information could be work information, accessing your computer, Email, VPN benefits that work provides and that has accounts, things of that nature. Another category, social media you know, I see a lot of social media accounts that are never shut down like a decade after the person has passed away, and I believe one of the reasons for that is actually nobody has access to the account. I don't think your account, your Facebook account should stay live in perpetuity if you have passed away. Music, video, and streaming sites. Well, your Netflix, your Spotify, your Apple Music, your Amazon Prime, all of these things are categories and accounts that you should have access to. Now, that’s just in the digital realm of organizing yourself. You know, I'm looking through my other list here. Know it for it would be really helpful to people for people to know where your will is, where your trust is located, where your passport is, driver's license, birth certificate. How about your broker? The person who manages your money? His or her phone number, address, and Email address. I have so much on this list that goes on and on and on and on and on. How about your pets? If you have a pet when you die, it probably be really good if you left a record of what veterinarian your pet is accustomed to going to phone number and address. What if you had, do you have specific intentions on what is to happen to your dog, cat, bird, gopher, whatever your pet may be. And how about those accounts that you want paid, closed, or cancelled? So, I hope that's not too overwhelming and hopefully, I didn't go too fast with those lists but that's just a small example of the type of inventory one should have when planning for your death. Now, there's ways to do this manually and I happen to have an example here. This is a peace of mind planner, and you can pick this up at a bookstore on Amazon. I can get them for you. I purchased them. give them to clients who ask for them and this is this would be the paper version of kind of what I just described and it's good. I would personally never use it because I like storing my stuff digitally which I know some people are like, well, what if you store your stuff digitally and then nobody can find it or what if you store digitally and somebody gets access to it, then they have access to all your stuff. Although that's no different than you know, if I write it all down in this book and I lose this book or I get, you know, somebody finds the book and then they open it and have to go. Voila, all my stuff. So, not much different. Anyway, if you store your stuff digitally, a good way to do it is to use a program such as last pass. Last pass is a digital life organizer. It keeps accounts and passwords and all kinds of stuff, and you know, you there, you need one account, one set of account information and that gains access to your whole world. No different than if you put this book together. One book gives you complete access to your whole world. This is very important. The estates that are well organized with all of these things when people die, go very smoothly. People gain access, have the information they need, can make transfers and it is a beautiful thing. Estates where people die where there's absolutely no information, even no access to Email, Not much happens quickly. It's very difficult to get access to one's digital life after they've passed away and so many times the digital assets just go by the wayside. Meaning people can't get access to them. Something I left off was like cryptocurrencies, you know, cryptocurrencies have, you know, I'm not going to get into a whole lesson here on cryptocurrencies, but they have keys and passwords that are essential. If those keys and passwords are not stored or transferred to other people appropriately when you die that money is lost and so there’s no, Hey, can I appeal to this person to get access to the account? No. if you don't pass the appropriate credentials, when you die to cryptocurrency, in many cases, those accounts are lost including the money that is in those accounts. So, a good estate plan consists of a will or a trust, powers of attorney and these give the power and the direction to your surviving family on how you want your property disposed of, and it is essential, and that's what I do every day for families. But in addition to that, your plan needs to have the specific information and today, that's some of the stuff that we're talking about. It's not just enough to meet with an estate planning lawyer, have him or her draft up a wealth of excellent documents. If with those documents, all of the accounts detail is not included. So, I'm going to encourage you that doing a proper plan is a two-step process. Number one, you should meet with a credible estate planning lawyer This is somebody who has many years of planning people’s estates. No 2 families are the same and so each client I sit down with has a unique story and a unique part of their life and part of that story requires crafting documents specific to their uniqueness making them personal to them so that when they die there, intentions are fulfilled and then estate planning lawyer is going to set you up with information on how to properly leave your estate when you pass away. Remember, your estate plan needs to speak for you after you've died because you can no longer come back and speak on your own behalf. I know that sounds silly, but most people don't give that enough thought and consideration. So, let's just take a quick pause now and recap. My name is Christopher Nudo and I'm the founding partner of an estate planning and real estate law firm in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. I have offices in Arlington Heights and in Elgin, I serve my community and the Christian community by helping professionals, parents, neighbors, just about everybody plan and protect their legacy their life and pass it on to the next generation. If you missed my last Facebook live session, you can watch the video on my Facebook page. You can also find my videos on my website www.Nudo.net, and under videos and let's see, last time I spoke on property and Family Trust, when does it make sense to purchase real estate under an hour And when does it make sense to just hold your real estate and trust? So, every month, I provide legal guardians for parents and guardians and professionals, and we welcome you. We welcome you here to join us. Each time I do one of these live broadcasts or please share my videos with your family and friends and colleagues. No greater honor of mine than when you do do that. We're going to just take a few minutes here questions. We have a few questions that have come in. Question number one from our audience is, is it really safe to write down all of your passwords the professionals of which when it comes to cyber security, I am not say that writing down your passwords is not really the safest way to do it. With that said, I believe that writing down your passwords with a very good system of protecting where those passwords are as well as having some form of redundant digital way of storing those passwords is a good system and I will give you an example on iPhone device. This is not a plug for apple. I store passwords in a note like a word document kind of thing that would be considered writing them down. I also use the program last pass LASTPASS and it is a digital way of storing usernames and passwords. I believe that type of redundancy is good to ensure that you have access and other people have access to these accounts. Are there password keepers or online tools? Estate planning attorneys use to access accounts, information? You know, no, there's not. There's not like a, hey, everybody should use this. I obviously today, I'm promoting last pass and that's because I use it but there are many other password programs out there and accounts daily life inventory, digital management software packages out there that are very good. I only promote the ones I use personally because I’m only comfortable promoting what I know. Can I include non-family members as my designated persons with accounts access? Okay, great question. This is, it depends. Obviously, you can give anybody accounts access to any of your accounts but your accounts that you have are governed by end license agreements and these end-user license agreements are the agreements that the websites and or account providers like Google Apple, etcetera. They have rules about whether or not you can share your account information. So, while you're allowed to share your information with anybody you want because we live in a free country. Know that it might violate the end user license agreement, and so I don't want to promote giving other people your login credentials because I don't want to encourage people to violate and use their license agreements but let's just say it's probably a good idea if that person is your trusted adviser. How much does it cost to work with an estate planning lawyer? Well, you know, most of us do a estate planning on a fixed fee basis. What does that mean? A fixed fee basis means that it's kind of like going to a restaurant. When you go to a restaurant and order a bowl of spaghetti, it cost you about $9. $12 If you get the meat sauce, and a side of meatballs of course, and that is fixed pricing. Well, lawyers in the estate planning arena for the most part, use fixed pricing as well. So, a simple will done by my firm costs about between 500 and 750 dollars in a fixed fee price. Meaning that when you meet with us, we give you the fee quote. Of course, that information that those prices are subject to change but today that is what we charge. If you do a living trust your fees are typically somewhere between 3000 and 4500 dollars, and again, when you meet with us, it is a fixed fee, and we do a estate planning which means that all of the documents you get are bundled. Meaning, there's many documents when you purchase them for those prices. What is the difference between working with a lawyer and doing the paperwork myself online? Well, there's a number of very big differences. The first difference is when working with a reputable estate planning lawyer, you know that the documentation they are providing is indeed correct and suited for you because that's our job. It's like going and getting a custom pair of shoes when you put them on, they should match your feet perfectly and that's what we do. as a estate planning lawyers, we match your estate plan to you and your family perfectly In addition, when you do the documents yourselves, you run the risk of not executing the documents with the necessary formality that they require Wills trust powers of attorney living wills, all the different types of estate planning documentation that there is Each have their own unique set of execution formality, whether it needs initials in certain places, signature Witnesses. How many? One, Two. Doesn't need a notary in what order of the are these things done? All plays into whether or not the document is valid when you die and so I always say that if you're okay with generic documents, you can produce them online. Not knowing whether they fit your specific situation. Well, that's what you're getting when you get online documents versus hiring estate planning lawyer. Also, you run the risk of the documents not being properly executed and as you can imagine, if an estate planning document is not properly executed and you die, then, it is as if the document did not exist. So, all of your work to do it yourself and all the money you saved by doing it yourself ends up being worthless because if executed improperly, it's as if the document never existed. do you offer virtual appointments or on-site visits? Well, I don't think that's an AI. Think it's an ad. So, yes, we offer virtual appointments. We use either Google Meet or Microsoft teams for our video experience. I'm not a big fan of the vigil, the virtual consultations but I will do them for any client that requested it. I find that a Face-to-face meeting is better and if you're more comfortable with you, wearing masks and being you know, six to ten feet apart in order to get our business done. I am fine with that. If you're just the opposite, I'm fine with that too. I just think we all should be prudent in these COVID times. Where can I contact you to set up a consultation? Well, I believe on the bottom of the screen, you see my phone number and my I have a phone number to call, and I have a phone number to text and you can even call the texting number by the way. You can call either number, text, the second number. also I think there's Email and website and all kinds of information about me. That They'll scroll along the bottom of the page. I want to really thank you guys for these thoughtful questions that you've brought to us today. I cherish the opportunity to earn your trust and work with your family with regard to your estate and secure your legacy for the next generation. Like anything in life, proper planning. It takes a little bit of time. This is usually a 2-to-3-week process that we undertake when we start the estate planning process, and our goal is to sit and really discuss the values that are important to your family so that I can meet those goals when taking care of you. I invite you to join me here again next week on Facebook Live on Friday morning central Time. Again, please feel free to invite your friends, your family, share these videos with those friends, family members as well and I hope to see you again here next week. God bless. Have a great day.