Will your clients' families be able to access their financial data in an emergency?

As more and more of the financial world goes digital, reams of crucial financial information are stored online – often protected by a jumble of passwords known only to the user, which can leave a mess for the user’s family if he dies or becomes disabled.

A new online storage platform, BestBequest.com, has partnered with the Financial Planning Association (FPA) to make storing important financial documents seamless for advisors and their clients. BestBequest will exhibit its site at the annual FPA National Conference in Seattle next month.

The platform gathers and organizes all of the clients’ documents and helps to create a road map to guide them through life-changing events. For example, if the account holder dies, her documents can be accessed by assigned trustee. The trustee can be anyone that is granted permission, whether an advisor or a family member; and as much or as little information as desired can be shared with that person.  

BestBequest might be an attractive way for clients to easily share information with their advisors. “I think it is imperative to have end-of-life plans and instructions in place, and having it all stored in a single remote location is a great idea,” Sean Moore, a certified financial planner and founder of SMART College Funding, told ThinkAdvisor. “While I haven’t used the service, the website seems easy to navigate and has a lighthearted feel.”

Lauri S. Tamney, the chief development officer of BesBequest, says that the FPA has found this platform very helpful and that members have been suggesting it to many of their clients.

“Financial advisors know all too well the enormous emotional and financial costs that often occur when a family is not prepared for life-changing events.  BestBequest’s unique system and architecture guides you through a simple and user-friendly process for gathering and organizing your important documents, instructions, contact information, and keepsakes in a digital safe deposit box,” BestBequest writes in a press release. “A roadmap for your family and clients. Safe, secure and reliable.”

However, some advisors are wary of online platforms like BestBequest because of the amount of time it could take to input all the information. “Like all planning, procrastination looms large,” said Larry Moskat, CFP, at RIIA Advisors. “It clearly would take an investment of time and effort on the part of the users.  And many of the most probable users would be seniors, and they are not generally excited about getting into hours of time on a computer.”

There is also a question of security. Seth Deitchman, a financial advisor and portfolio manager from The Mercury Group at Morgan Stanley, says that online lockers open up another door for hackers to gain personal information from their clients. “We have to have a very high degree of security by regulation and even higher by our standards,” he said. “If BestBequest.com does not have the same standards or higher, there could be issues.”

The price could possibly deter some clients. For $149 annually, the user gets 25 gigabytes of storage. Other products like Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive and Dropbox offer more storage for lower prices.  So this price point might seem a little steep for some clients, but it could save a lot of time.

“If a senior used this for 20 years, they’d have $3,000 into it.  The savings would trump the costs to the boomers though in lost work, anxiety, extra attorney fees and strain, so it’d be a good investment I think…for boomers,” said Moskat. “The more tech-savvy boomer may look at this and see maybe 30 years of fees and it may just motivate them to take some “do-it-yourself” approach, putting these [documents] on a flash drive or something like that.”

BestBequest, which is headquartered in Houston, Texas, is also trying to branch out to different organizations such as universities and membership organizations, Tamney said. They are waiting until the end of the summer to officially launch their platform, and the company declined to say how many users the site has. 

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