Carefully sharing your information can help you stay prepared and protected.
We’ve all heard the stories. From tales of identity theft to credit card fraud, it feels more important than ever to keep our personal and financial information close and carefully guarded. However, it’s still important to clue in members of your innermost circle, such as your spouse, family members or financial advisor, so you can ensure there is always someone prepared and ready to act on your behalf should you need them to..
So, what exactly is important to share? How should you share it, and with whom?
A map to your financial life
In the case that you become incapacitated, your chosen representative should have access to enough information that they are prepared to act on your behalf.
You should share documents including:
- Contact details for your professional advisors
- Bills and regular spending
- Income, such as paycheck stubs and brokerage statements
- Proof of liabilities, such as a mortgage, line of credit or car loan
- Proof of assets, including your house, car and investment accounts
- Life and health insurance
- Retirement plan beneficiary designation documents
- Trusts and/or wills
- Powers of attorney
Tapping your inner circle
When choosing your representative, a common choice may be a spouse or family member, such as an adult child, but everyone’s situation is different. Think about who you view as most fit and prepared to act as your advocate in a stressful situation or who simply needs to know information to help you make important decisions. For parents of multiple children, would selecting one son or daughter create tension among the siblings? In that case, it could be wise to loop everyone in, but only if that makes sense to you and is something you feel comfortable with.
Not sure who to trust with your personal information? Psychology Today recommends taking these steps:
- Step back and take your time to think. It’s an incredibly important decision. Don’t rush it.
- Beware the hard sell. If anyone is pressuring you to make a decision, they may not have your best interest in mind.
- Be cautious of those who move too fast in relationships. At best they’re impulsive and, at worst, they may be trying to inappropriately gain from your relationship.
- Ask yourself what this person is really about. Some people are simply easy to like and connect with. Take a step back and consider how well you actually know them.
- Use your “wise mind.” Coined by psychologist Marsha Linehan, using our “wise mind” means we don’t ignore our emotions, but don’t ignore reality either.
Whether you choose to share your information with a family member or someone else close to you, just be sure they are worthy of your utmost trust.
Once you’ve decided who you’ll entrust with your information, it’s time to make sure you do so securely. You can start by creating a password-protected document explaining where your information and documents are stored and any specific actions that person should take in the event that you’re not able to do so yourself. This could include which bills to pay or who to reach out to, such as your financial advisor or estate attorney.
To share account access information, consider using an online tool or password manager – your advisor may have suggested options. Don’t forget to include your passwords to all of your accounts and subscriptions, including social media networks like Facebook or Instagram. An additional or backup option is to save a hardcopy of your passwords in a safe deposit box requiring a key and in-person authentication in order to access it.
While no solution can offer a perfect guarantee, many have safeguards in place to allow you to safely share discreet information.
Preserving your legacy – and privacy
When going through the process of entrusting your personal information with someone, remember that you’re asking them to take on an important and emotional responsibility. Be sure to set aside some time to discuss all the details and your wishes in person, and make a plan to meet for this purpose every few years or whatever interval feels appropriate.