If you're like most people, more and more of your life takes place online these days. Even if you aren't a social media maven, chances are you receive bank statements via email, order items online and have a few friends with whom you keep in contact only through email or forums.
When you die, that information could be very helpful to your family, but it is often out of reach because your passwords and other digital information aren't included in your estate plan.
Random Pages Aren't Enough
Writing down all your passwords and the names of the online sites you frequent is certainly better than nothing. However, if the information isn't part of your official family-information packet that your heirs would access after you die, it's too easy to end up with several different random pages floating around -- and your heirs might not even know where certain pages are. That just frustrates whoever has to find your online accounts.
Access Makes All the Difference
Without passwords, it's usually difficult to get permission to access email, social media, online shopping and other accounts. That leads to several adverse effects:
- Your online friends won't know you've died because no one can reach them
- There's an increased risk of ID theft of your information because no one can check your email for potential problems
- Some of your accounts may remain unpaid because no one knows that they exist
To prevent these problems, ensure current passwords are kept with the copy of your will or trust that you have in a filing cabinet or safe deposit box. In addition, you may want to note who you trust to handle these passwords and pages, if you do not want all of your loved ones to have access to them equally.
If you are unsure of how best to set up a plan that provides all of the necessary information to your heirs, consider working with an attorney who specializes in setting up wills, trusts and other estate paperwork.