Written documents such as a will, trust, power of attorney and healthcare directives continue to be the foundation for an estate plan. However, in this digital age, no estate plan is complete without instructions to access your digital accounts. Here are several steps to access your digital assets when necessary.
Identify Your Digital Accounts
- Make a list of all your digital accounts with logins and passwords, including passwords to unlock your electronic devices. Include bank and financial accounts, bills that are paid automatically, credit card account and medical websites. You should also include accounts that you use for online shopping and social media accounts.
- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts may play a significant role in how you connect with others. While you may leave instructions for how you wish such accounts to be closed out, social media providers typically have policies once an account owner has passed away that may limit how the account is managed.
Storing Your Information
- Put this list in a secure place such as a home safe or bank safe deposit box accessible to either a close loved one or your professional advisor. While some may advise against such a written list, it may help an executor gain faster control over your digital financial life. Regardless, keeping a written record current is a challenge as passwords can become stale quickly
- Password manager applications can store all of your account logins and passwords in a highly secure manner. Programs such as 1Password, LastPass, Keypass and others let you access your digital accounts with one master password. Most password managers are good so long as you don’t use a cloud-based option. The location of important documents can also be stored with a password manager. By using a password manager software, other family members can have access to your information with proper authorization. For example, if spouses exchange just a single password for their password manager software, the surviving spouse can easily access the deceased spouse’s digital accounts.
What Else Should I Consider?
- Security questions. When executors access a website, they may be asked for the security questions you established. Provide a list of these questions and responses should they be needed.
- Special provisions. A provision in your will or trust can authorize your executor to have access to your digital accounts. While this may not be controlling depending on the digital account provider, it is better to have such a provision than not. Never list account information in a will. Once entered into probate, the will is a public document.
Contact Estate Planning Professionals
- Experienced estate planning professionals know the importance of addressing digital accounts as part of an estate plan. Inquire about laws and provider policies that may inhibit your executor’s ability to access your digital accounts. In this digital age, no estate plan is complete without addressing your digital life.
- As you work through your estate planning, our Estate Planning Guide can help make this process easier with checklists, tips and techniques. For a free copy, visit our website or contact us at (617) 643-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.