|Helena S. Mock, Esq.|
About a year ago, an article ran in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Protect Your Future Self from Financial Abuse.” The article identified several steps you can take now to protect yourself from financial exploitation in later years. As we age, our brains change, and the changes are often too subtle to notice, at least at first. And later, many who do notice those changes are not willing to face them. So how can you “plan ahead” to make your life easier and help those you have put in place take charge upon incapacity?
Obviously, having a power of attorney and a medical directive which name people of your choosing to handle your legal, financial, and medical affairs is a first step. But there’s more. As you head toward retirement, take stock of all financial accounts and begin to consolidate or pare down. This will simplify things for both you and those who come after you. Next, create a directory of all online accounts and identify usernames and passwords for each account. This directory should be kept where it can be located when needed, but not before. In other words, it should not be kept out in the open where caregivers or even children or grandchildren could easily find it. Keeping it with your power of attorney makes sense. If you are uncomfortable with a written list, there are several online options such as passwordbox.com, everplans.com, and planneddeparture.com. These sites are set up to store all passwords to any of your online accounts. You should also select a “digital estate executor” to receive access to your accounts upon your incapacity or death. If your estate planning documents don’t reference accessing digital assets, they should be updated.
You should also consider identifying an emergency contact person through your attorney or financial advisor. This way, if one of your trusted advisors notices significant changes in your personality, spending, or decision-making which raise concerns about your capacity, that individual can contact the person you identified without fear of repercussion or fear of violating confidentiality rules. This way, someone can step in, if it is ultimately determined to be necessary, before it is too late.
If you wish to read the Wall Street Journal’s article referenced above, you can access it at https://www.wsj.com/articles/pre-retirees-can-cut-down-on-chances-of-financial-exploitation-1450368080 .