Rob Car­rick looks at an op­tion to sort out your fi­nances for your estate

The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - SPORTS - ROB CAR­RICK

If you’re wor­ried that your fi­nan­cial life is too com­plex for oth­ers to have to un­ex­pect­edly un­tan­gle, take com­fort: There’s an app for you

The savvier you are with money, the harder it will be for your fam­ily to make sense of your sav­ings, in­vest­ments, in­sur­ance and more if you get sick or die sud­denly.

Hav­ing ac­counts at var­i­ous banks, in­vest­ment firms and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies may give you great value, but each is a puz­zle unto it­self for your fam­ily or sur­vivors. They must first lo­cate the ac­count, then es­tab­lish how much is in it.

With an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, this is a grow­ing prob­lem. A reader re­cently asked: “As a re­cent re­tiree I’ve been try­ing to amal­ga­mate and sim­plify my fi­nan­cial life, but now re­al­ize that my fam­ily would likely need to spend sig­nif­i­cant time fig­ur­ing out my as­sets and debts if/when any­thing were to hap­pen to me. Any sug­ges­tions on a se­cure way to make in­for­ma­tion ac­ces­si­ble to them?”

Here’s a thought: A new on­line ser­vice called Onist (pro­nounced “hon­est”) of­fers a way to con­sol­i­date all your fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion in one se­cure place and share it to what­ever de­gree you want. The cost is $100 a year, with a 30day free trial.

Onist prob­a­bly isn’t for you if you’re one of those or­ga­nized and re­spon­si­ble peo­ple who has al­ready pro­duced a cu­rated list of your fi­nan­cial hold­ings and stored it in a three-ring binder, safe de­posit box, Drop­box ac­count or pass­word-pro­tected spread­sheet. This is more of an app for the cur­rently un­pre­pared who are will­ing to pay a rea­son­able fee to fix that prob­lem.

Onist was de­vel­oped by Brad Kotan­sky, a Mon­treal na­tive who has spent time on Wall Street and as a real estate de­vel­oper in Ari­zona. Sev­eral years back, he of­fered to look af­ter the fi­nances of his dad, who was re­cov­er­ing from a se­ri­ous health is­sue. His dad had a fairly elab­o­rate fi­nan­cial pic­ture and his mother didn’t have a clear pic­ture of it all.

“I started look­ing for soft­ware that could help me with this, and there was noth­ing,” Mr. Kotan­sky said. “So I said, ba­si­cally, I’m go­ing to go out and build it. It started out as a so­lu­tion to con­nect house­holds to their fi­nan­cial data and doc­u­ments.”

You start us­ing Onist by con­nect­ing your on­line ac­counts. Yes, you have to sup­ply your lo­gin and pass­word. Tech­ni­cally, this may breach agree­ments with your bank that pro­tect you against your ac­count be­ing hacked and money be­ing taken. If money was stolen from your ac­count be­cause you dis­closed your pass­word, you’d be on the hook. Some peo­ple will shy away on this ba­sis, but the ac­count ag­gre­ga­tion of­fered by Onist is be­com­ing a very com­mon thing in per­sonal-fi­nance apps and se­cu­rity has not been a prob­lem.

Mr. Kotan­sky said per­sonal in­for­ma­tion (such as your ad­dress and birth date) and fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion about your ac­counts are stored sep­a­rately, which makes things dif­fi­cult for hack­ers. Onist doesn’t have ac­cess to pass­words for your per­sonal ac­counts – they’re man­aged by third-party data ag­gre­ga­tors. You’ll have to se­curely hold your pass­words else­where if you want to share them with a spouse or fam­ily mem­bers.

In ad­di­tion to your ac­count bal­ances, you can use Onist to store doc­u­ments such as the deed to your home, your will and your in­sur­ance poli­cies. The doc­u­ments are en­crypted when you up­load them, so they’re not view­able if your com­puter is hacked.

Once your ac­count is fully set up, you can share as lit­tle or as much in­for­ma­tion as you want with fam­ily mem­bers or your ac­count and in­vest­ment ad­viser. In fact, part of Onist’s busi­ness plan is to at­tract ad­vis­ers who would of­fer the prod­uct to their clients.

There are at least four sit­u­a­tions where it would be use­ful for spouses or mem­bers of a fam­ily to have ac­cess to your fi­nan­cial data.

Get­ting mar­ried: Spouses can get a con­sol­i­dated view of their fi­nances, which makes it eas­ier to plan for the fu­ture.

Mar­ried cou­ples where one spouse looks af­ter the money: There could be sit­u­a­tions where the other spouse needs to jump in and make fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions.

Adult chil­dren help­ing par­ents with their fi­nances: In our ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, more se­niors will be get­ting help from fam­ily with their fi­nances.

Par­ents who travel and want care­givers for their chil­dren or their adult kids to have ac­cess to im­por­tant fi­nance de­tails as re­quired: quick ac­cess to your will and other per­ti­nent doc­u­ments.

Mr. Kotan­sky sees Onist as al­most like so­cial me­dia for money. “We’re con­nected in a mil­lion dif­fer­ent ways, so­cially,” he said. “But when it comes to house­hold fi­nances, we still op­er­ate with rigid si­los all around us.”

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