Cell phone estate planning is a weird issue because it wasn’t a concern ten years ago.
Very likely, any person who has experienced the death of an elderly parent likely didn’t lose sleep over access to a cell phone or tablet.
I believe cell phone estate planning is a big deal for every family and any person:
- Active on social media,
- Taking pictures on their phone,
- Using their phone to access e-mail,
- Utilizes a smart phone or tablet for health records, or
- Any number of functions available through an app.
Thus, this is how I handle cell phone estate planning.
Do your loved ones have a right to access your phone?
Putting aside your passwords or the right to talk with your cell phone provider, any person accessing your cell phone while you are incapacitated or upon your death likely needs authority from either a court or a trust.
As you know, accessing a cell phone sometimes grants access to financial records or the ability to make online purchases. Even if this is not true, the mere likelihood imposes greater duty of care.
Yes, cell phone estate planning includes an expressed right to an:
- Attorney in Fact (Power of Attorney), or
Unfortunately, access to a cell phone likely needs court approval before an executor or Personal Representative can access information on a cell phone.
For these reasons, your entire family should not have access to your cell phone.
Passwords and Cell Phone Estate Planning
I agree, passwords associated with a cell phone or tablet or any electronic device should be kept a secret. As I understand it, the experts tell us to never write down our passwords.
From a practical perspective, cell phone estate planning for my clients who are elderly, incapacitated or under duress have a difficult time, sharing passwords when their health is impacted. Thus, I encourage clients to make this choice as they deem appropriate.
I prefer to use a columned form or document identifying the following information:
As you might guess, the list of websites or devices can be exhausting. However, it can be a tremendous resource to you and your family.
Where to keep cell phone estate planning records
In my experience, one of the worst locations to keep cell phone estate planning records is inside an online vault or in an e-mail.
With exceptions, one of the most practical places to keep records or forms related to a cell phone estate plan is keeping this information in the same location as your will, power of attorney or important papers.
Even better, investing in a fire-proof safe can offer tremendous security.
Need more help?
Please contact me if you need help creating or adding a cell phone to your estate plan,