Leaving our passwords to important accounts to the people we trust is not only necessary to help them settle our affairs if something untoward happens to us, it is also crucial in preventing identity theft or online fraud.
your executor has access to your e-mail, chances are they can reset a password and access your other accounts,” says Evan.
“If you’re uncomfortable with others looking at your correspondence, you could say, ‘While I know you would need access for these reasons, I’d prefer if you don’t go looking for this or that type of message’.” Online businesses: “The financial value of these assets is real and contributes to the value of your estate, so make sure you state clearly in your will how you want these accounts to be handled,” says Evan. Social media: “Sometimes it makes sense for a social media account to remain in place as a memorial. Facebook has a way to memorialise accounts. For Twitter, some families choose to keep the account online so others can read it, though obviously there are no additional tweets. A final notification would be appropriate,” says Evan. If you’d like the account to have a final statement, you can leave instructions as to what it should be. Acquaint yourself with the terms of service of all your accounts, especially e-mail. Yahoo’s terms of service state that your account cannot be turned over to anyone, and accounts of deceased users will be permanently deleted. This affects Flickr accounts, too, as it is owned by Yahoo.
If you disagree with that policy, you could switch to Google, which owns Picasa, also a photo-sharing site. Their Inactive Account Manager service allows you to dictate how your possessions held by Google should be handled upon your death.
Chanel also suggests having a digital power of attorney written into your power of attorney document to empower the appointed person to handle your assets online. “It clearly states your intent and wishes, although it may contradict some companies’ policies,” says Chanel. Whether the document will be recognised by companies still depends on the various websites’ policies.
Determine where to save this information.
The challenge with storage is that if someone undesirable accesses the information before you die, it could wreak havoc in your life. So you need a place that’s secure but which a loved one can easily access in the event of your death or incapacitation. “You can’t put the information in a will because wills become public once they go through probate,” says Jamie. “Also, you’d have to keep updating your will every time you change usernames and passwords.”
He recommends storing everything in a document on an external encrypted hard drive to protect it against theft. Or write it down on paper and store it in a locked drawer at home. Many lawyers will also store information for you, though that might become a pain every time you want to update a password or add to the document.
You could also turn to services like Lastpass or Securesafe. With Lastpass, you only need to share your master password; Securesafe gives you a 64-character code that you can include in your estate documents so someone can inherit your account.
Get legal advice and tell your loved ones where the information is stored.
Because this involves your estate, seek legal advice to make sure you’re in line with laws you may not be aware of. And unless you tell someone where this information is stored, some or all of your preparation could be for naught.
Finally, don’t put this off – even if you only have time for one small step, do it. “We suffer from what researchers call ‘benign neglect’. It’s the same with backing up our computers,” says Evan. “We know we need to do it, but we think, ‘I’ll get around to it later’. Unfortunately, with death, we don’t have ‘later’. Take some action, because it’s a million times better than taking no action.”