Much has been written about how family
members struggle to get access to the e-mail and social network accounts of loved
ones who have died. They have sentimental value much the way photo albums and
personal letters do. But far less attention has been paid to the logins,
passwords and answers to security questions that will give access to an online
Do you still check your hardcopy
bank statement? What about the checkbook – is it always with you or just tucked
away in a drawer somewhere? Now that most of us have “gone digital” with our
finances (i.e. online banking, debit cards, etc.), there is a new perspective
on protecting one’s assets.
What planning have you done for
your digital assets? Would your love ones be able to navigate the system of
digital accounts, portals and passwords when needed?
The conundrum of how to
understand and plan for the maintenance of a digital life is not new, but it is
growing. Everyone – people of all walks of life – has some tie to the internet
and most have something worth protecting there. Much can be said about Facebook
accounts for their social value and the sentimental value of pictures hosted
there, but there is far more to it.
A recent article in The New York Times titled “Leaving Behind the Digital Keys to Financial
Lives” picked up on this theme since we do most of our banking and
investing online. If you go to the effort to document your legal wishes in an
estate plan for the control and management for your estate, then they at least
need to know the “what” and the “where” regarding the estate to control and
Unfortunately, digital accounts
have few paper trails by their very nature and passwords may change every week.
Simply put, you have to plan to hand over the keys to your digital estate and
that often can take more diligence than planning for the keys of the family
As helpfully summed up over in
the original article:
needed to think about five things to ensure that everything goes smoothly with
their digital financial lives if they become incapacitated or die: they need to
maintain a list of their digital information; send the information to someone
they trust; make sure other people know who has the information; leave
instructions for how everything should be handled; and note all of this in an
estate plan and update it regularly.
Reference: The New York
Times (May 24, 2013) “Leaving Behind the Digital Keys to Financial