We talked about this a while back but due to it’s increasing importance we thought we’d revisit the topic! Sure, it’s a really strange thought, but when you or a loved one dies, can you keep your usernames and passwords? Do you even think there is Internet access in Heaven? Well, no one really knows for sure. We’re waiting patiently, but we have not yet seen a blog or a Facebook posting from Heaven.
Here on earth, web and social media use continues to grow at a staggering and exponential rate! Use of sites such as Facebook and Twitter are growing exponentially.
Over 50% of us use the Internet for banking and bill paying. Over 80% of us use email. More people have more types of accounts online than ever before. We communicate online; we bank, pay our bills, buy and sell stuff, store photos, videos, etc. The list goes on and on! We have so many different accounts, usernames and passwords that we can barely keep track! And those lists are growing and growing.
From what we have experienced at our Social Media Institute, many of you do not have a great way that you are storing your usernames and passwords. Much of what we see is haphazard. And there is another question – what happens, and who has access to your accounts when you die?
Many people assume that a family member will be able to get access to this information. Unfortunately we have found that this may not be the case. According to many of the terms of service agreements that you agree to, an account is not necessarily transferrable. Yahoo closes the account and deletes all of the data when you die. Facebook will ‘memorialize’ the account, which will remove certain information, but still allow people to leave posts in remembrance. But they will not allow anyone access to the account. Try to find out what happens to your PayPal account at death (do a search), and there is no answer.
As we perform more and more activities online, it will become increasingly difficult for the executor and trustee of your estate to make sure all of your bills are being paid. And without access to your online accounts, it is very possible some of your assets may go undiscovered. That certainly is not good!
There will be other issues, such as who controls the items you have listed on eBay? How is money retrieved from a PayPal account? Who owns the content of your blog? Who owns your pictures, movies and podcasts? What about personal items such as any secret email, love letters or other correspondence that you do not want discovered by anyone after you are gone? You definitely need to plan for all of these scenarios.
Without an accurate list of all of your online accounts, usernames and passwords, it will be nearly impossible for your family members to locate them at your death. So what do you do?
Perhaps the simplest strategy would be to give a list of accounts, usernames and passwords to a family member or trusted advisor. Of course this violates the advice that every website gives you (to keep your password secret and never share it with anyone). A list of passwords could be kept in a safe deposit box, with access only to be given upon death or disability. Or special instructions concerning online accounts can be incorporated into a power of attorney, will, or trust. There are even some online services that allow for storage of username and password information and will send to the appropriate people upon death.
There is no doubt that the Internet is playing a more important role in our lives than ever before. As more and more information is put online, it becomes increasingly important to plan for how this information should be handled upon your disability or your death. Failure to plan properly could result in loss of valuable information and money, but may also cause unnecessary complications, difficulty and expense for your family.
We have attached a very simple form (Password Cheat Sheet) that we designed. We suggest that you use it to store all of your usernames and passwords. We urge you to fill it out completely and keep it in a safe place. Let a loved one know about it as well. And since your accounts, usernames and passwords are always changing, this will never be finished – always keep it up to date.
Please remember, if you ever have any questions about storing usernames and passwords, please simply ask us. This is like insurance! Free insurance! It is extremely important but often so overlooked.
Below is what your “Password Cheat Sheet” should look like!
By the way, we have a library of many different types of free forms and letters that we are building here, so please feel free to check it out at https://www.madow.com/forms-and-letters/. If there is a form or letter that you do not see, please let us know and we will do our best to include it as soon as possible!