An article in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal should be required reading for anyone who uses websites that require a password. Which would be pretty much all of us.
Kelly Greene’s article, PINs that Needle Families, explores the problem of how next-of-kin can access a person’s online information–bank accounts, credit card statements and even social-networking–after a person’s death. It’s not something most people like to think about. But, as Greene notes, “when people die, their passwords often go with them, along with access to their digital assets.”
As the person in our home who pays the bills online, manages the money and keeps track of credit cards and brokerage accounts, I know all the passwords and log-in names. My husband doesn’t. And he really doesn’t want to know. He feels confident that I’m staying on top of payments and investments. After all, he was smart enough to marry an organizer.
But I always wonder how he’d fare if anything ever happened to me. How would he pay the credit card bills or keep tabs on our accounts? “Nothing’s going to happen to you,” he insists. And I hope not.
But as the WSJ article notes, it’s wise to do some “digital estate planning” so that your survivors have access to vital online information. The article suggests visiting ljpr.com and clicking on “services” and then “estate planning” and then “letter of instruction form.” There’s a section where you can include account names and corresponding PINs.
Yes, it’s going to take some time to fill it out and give a copy to your attorney or financial planner or significant other. But think how much grief and hassle you’ll save them should they ever need it.