What happens when your digital life goes on after you die? How does your surviving spouse/family member deal with your digital estate?
While no one really likes to think about things related to your passing or someone you love passing, the truth is it is probably more complicated now than it was 25 years ago.
Why? Because so much of our life is now connected in some way to online services.
From banks to credit cards, life insurance to investments, health records to drivers licenses: much of this type of information is some how behind a User Name and Password combination on a web site.
And the truth is that is not going to get any less likely to be so as we progress further in to the 21st century.
What do you do when the assets you own are locked behind someone else’s online accounts, especially if you don’t know what all of the accounts are?
In the past detailing your wishes for disposing of your assets was the work of last wills and testaments. It still is, at least legally.
But the scenario is a bit more challenging now than in the past. Let me explain.
When my father died in 1994, I spent several weeks going through all of my parents paper work related to his estate. My mother was unable to be of much assistance, for just the reasons you can imagine (and the fact that she herself had a slight heart attack when she discovered he was gone).
I knew more or less exactly where to look for their documents because they were in a single small file cabinet in a spare bedroom. It still took a painstakingly long time to wade through it all to make sense of it. Documents are not self-interpreting, especially if they contain seemingly contradictory information.
Fast forward to now, and imagine if all of your assets are locked behind user name and passwords that you don’t know. You can’t get in to check your family bank account because your spouse did all that and you don’t know the password.
You don’t have the information you need for the insurance company, both health and life. And you don’t have a clue the status of your investment accounts.
And that says nothing about your iTunes music.
So what can be done? I can’t possibly address all of the steps you need to take, but there is one step that will make managing your digital (after) life easier for your family.
How do you do this?
First, strongly consider an password management service such as LastPass. I have written about password management here, but my choice is LastPass.
Next, though you make use of something like LastPass, you need to make sure your family has access to your account in some way. You can manage that by using the LastPass sharing function to share every password managed by your LastPass account. Incidentally, you don’t need to actually let the family member see the password. LastPass shares access to the password so it can be used with out allowing the person with whom you have shared it with to have the ability to see or change the password.
If you are not comfortable sharing all of your passwords (even if securely), you can always write down the password or put it on a thumb drive and save it in a safety deposit box. Of course you need to make sure the person to whom you are entrusting the LastPass password understands the purpose of the security measures.
The point of this is that the very things that make life so very convenient while we still draw breath can make things much more challenging for those who survive us. And remember, the accounts you leave will each have their own user agreements (most of which we blow past without reading while signing up for things) all of which will speak to the matter of survivorship.
Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net