It's becoming a more common question: where to store passwords for after death? We’ve all heard stories about people dying suddenly and their family or friends, or even their estate administrator or attorney, are unable to access online bank accounts, online bill pay sites, blogs, and social media accounts.
If you regularly contribute to a blog, you may want to make plans for someone to take it down, keep contributing to it once you’re gone, or post a final farewell. If you're active on social media, you may want to make plans to pass on your Twitter handle, or make sure your Facebook account is managed according to your wishes. But your digital legacy goes beyond blogs and social media.
With so much information being stored electronically on password protected sites, it’s important to plan for how your estate representative will access your personal online accounts after your death.
There are various ways to protect and pass on data after death, including giving a document to your estate planning and probate attorney, using computer-based password management software, or employing a cloud-based, encrypted password management program. There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and it's important that you plan for how you will manage your data after death.
Without the right information and passwords, gaining access to and managing an account on behalf of someone who is incapacitated or who recently died can be incredibly difficult, as companies are reluctant to grant access to password protected sites.
The most basic, and most secure strategy to grant someone else access to your password protected sites is to keep an inventory of your accounts and passwords, and give that list to your estate planning and probate attorney. The list should include the website name and web address, username, password, and any other relevant information like security questions and answers, PIN numbers, security codes, and account numbers. If you have two-factor authentication for any account, make sure that’s noted, with instructions on how to sign in. Then, make sure your attorney and estate representative know how to find and access your digital inventory.
The safest and most secure way is to place the password inventory in a sealed envelope and share it with your attorney. Another option is to keep it in a safe deposit box that will be accessed by your attorney or your family at the time of your death.
Many people promote the use of a password manager. Password managers are computer or cloud-based programs that keep your passwords secure. Three of the most popular are Dashlane, KeePass, and LastPass. They claim to use encryption technology to keep your data secure,. While this is better than an un-encrypted text document or a Post-it note stuck to your computer, cloud-based systems are subject to hackers, and you sacrifice control over who can access your sensitive data.
Legacy Locker is an online password management service that specializes in handling passwords after a person’s death. It claims to have a thorough verification process to verify your death. When you sign up, Legacy Locker requires that you enter the name of two people who must both confirm that you are dead or incapacitated before it allows access to your passwords. You can also specify different beneficiaries for different accounts. One person could receive login information for your blog, while another receives login credentials for your bank accounts and PayPal. Beneficiaries must also prove their identity in order to login.
While cloud-based password managers are popular, I don't recommend them because they can be easily compromised. Because the data you are storing is confidential and important, it's better to keep this information off of the cloud so it cannot be accessed by anyone other than the people you explicitly authorize.
Javont Vault is a Windows software that resides on your desktop. It allows you to catalog your possessions, safety deposit box information, passwords, and memberships in one place where your family can get it easily, as long as someone can access your computer and knows your social security number.
Proponents argue that because it is stored on your desktop and does not reside in the cloud, it has an added layer of security. While this is marginally more secure than a cloud-based system, I do not recommend storing your passwords here because of the risk of a data compromise.
Another option is to create a new email account that is specifically kept for your attorney or executor to give to your spouse or other family member at the time of your death. If you decide to use a password manager, you can link the password management service to this email account. You can also periodically send an email to this account detailing your wishes with regard to a particular account, or send instructions on where to find photos, important documents, etc.
Once again, because this information is stored on the web, it is susceptible to unauthorized and is not recommended.
There are new forms of assets, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Neo, and many more. The only record of their existence is often in the form of a digital code or passphrase. If you do not keep a secure record of the assets, it will be lost. Therefore I strongly recommend that you deposit your passphrases for your Bitcoin wallets, Ethereum wallets, and other digital assets with a trusted depository, such as an experienced digital asset planner, an attorney, or even with the Probate Court for safekeeping.
The safest, most effective way to store your digital data is through a password vault managed by your attorney, and stored where your attorney advises clients. If you have questions or need assistance on how to plan for managing your digital legacy, contact an experienced Ohio estate planning and probate attorneyat Wolfe Legal Services today. I have more than 20 years experience as an Ohio probate and estate planning attorney, and frequently advise people on estate planning in the digital age.
I work with people throughout greater Columbus, including Dublin, Bexley, Upper Arlington, New Albany, Marysville, Hilliard, Delaware, and Newark, and throughout Franklin County, Delaware County, Pickaway County, Fairfield County, Union County, and Licking County. Call (614) 263-5297 any time or complete our online form.