Online Passwords - The forgotten element of Estate Planning?

Does your Estate Plan include your passwords?

In past posts we have discussed the selection of an executor of one’s Will, whether a person or organization, being of huge importance. An executor’s responsibilities are extensive.  In addition to having to deal with selling real estate, dealing with financial institutions, potentially disgruntled beneficiaries, government agencies, and of course tax filings and probate filings comes another issue which has arisen in this technology age and that is online accounts and digital assets.

Obviously, online bank accounts are certainly one component but what about intellectual property held on someone’s hard drive.  Computers hold photographs, family history, and family medical information which perhaps have no dollar value, but hold huge sentimental value.

I personally have to keep a directory in a highly secure password protected location just to keep track and remind myself of all of my login identifications, and passwords.  Let’s face it, over the last decade more and more households have converted to online billing and statements from their financial institutions. Facebook and LinkedIn and other social media all require login and passwords to access.  If you don’t know the password or user ID to these online accounts, you can’t get into them whether you are executor of a Will or not.  This will result in many more headaches when dealing with an estate. 

We have watched families struggle and become frustrated with their inability to access even the most basic information.  Worst case this can lead to assets being left on the “cloud” table. 

The team and I at Insightful Wealth Group are continually encouraging the importance of documenting your information for the sake of your executor, essentially keeping a checklist of all of your information so that there aren’t any stones unturned when that day comes.  It means sitting down and thinking of every single thing that you do on the computer, that you handle remotely or through social media.  This can be accomplished via the old school method of pen and paper or there are computer based programs to help with this task. 

While great in theory, there is a potential complication - users frequently update their passwords (as good online security practices suggest) or switch accounts causing your password logs to become outdated.  Therefore, continual reminders to update this information are required.

There are several companies which have created software to allow users to complete this important task.  A 'google' search lists many programs which help you create a comprehensive map of your most important information, assets, and wishes; keeps it safe; and then selectively shares it with others at the time you choose (now, if you become disabled, or after your passing).  They are a digital approach to leaving directions and avoiding dead-ends.

Regardless of the method you choose, we cannot stress enough the importance of keeping good records of your online presence.  Should you have any questions or require assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us.