Thirty years ago, when a loved one passed away, you could typically find one box that contained all their financial, legal and personal information. This made estate management easier to handle, but things are much different today.
Now, we all have email accounts, online banking and various other personal accounts that can be accessed via computers. Did you know most individuals do not have a central repository of passwords and log-in information for the sites they use and where they keep assets on the Internet?
Our assets stretch beyond our IRAs and money market accounts, so if you are storing your personal information and documents online, make things simple for your loved ones. Here’s how to start:
1. Create a record of your digital assets, which include…
- Domain names, websites and blogs
- Photos, videos and documents stored on sharing sites such as Flickr, YouTube and Google Docs
- Email accounts
- Online bank, credit card and investment accounts, and other such accounts that typically require a password
- Accounts with online companies such as Facebook, Twitter and eBay
- Documents, spreadsheets, photos and other such items that are stored on your computers, hard drives, DVDs, smartphones, flash drives and other offline or online servers or backup servers
Keep in mind that this sensitive data should be kept someplace secure, and updated quarterly as user information and logins require changes from time to time.
2. Appoint someone to have access to these accounts
If you make sure the named administrator of your estate has sufficient power of attorney to gain access to these digital assets, you can prevent issues in the future.
Also, be sure that you read and understand the terms of service of an online provider or service. This is because many websites will not allow someone to access the content if the individual is no longer alive.
For example, Google said it provides access to a deceased person’s Gmail account “in rare cases” and then, only to an authorized representative.
Facebook memorializes an account after its user dies, meaning only confirmed friends can see the user’s profile.
“In order to protect the privacy of the deceased user, we cannot provide log-in information for the account to anyone,” Facebook said. “However, once an account has been memorialized, it is completely secure and cannot be accessed or altered by anyone.”
3. Find someone technically savvy
It’s not enough to have someone who simple has access to your accounts. You should also consider appointing a special digital executor who would act on your behalf to distribute or delete your digital assets according to your wishes.
If you complete these steps today, you can ensure that all of your personal and business records will be appropriately secured in perpetuity.