Legacy Tip #4: Plan if & how you will share important information such as passwords with next of kin

You may be thinking about what happens to your digital estate after you die and you’ve read that it’s wise to provide details for your online accounts – including usernames, passwords as well as an overview of important information locked behind these accounts — to your nominated friend, family member or next of kin.

What options are available to you to transition this information securely and reliably? The chances are you won’t want to share sensitive log in and account details to your next of kin while you are alive for many reasons including security.

digital_afterlife_password_security

Copyright: Asif Akbar

Consider a Digital Afterlife Service

Online services concerned with passwords and passing on digital legacies are varied in what they offer but generally speaking, they aim to centrally manage multiple sources of data in one place as well as allow users to nominate who receives this data when they die. After the user’s death, information is often transferred to nominated contacts without sharing usernames and/or passwords.

Many include a decent amount of storage for the account holder to organise photos, memories, notes and documents with friendly user interfaces for viewing and downloading. On the whole, they encourage account holders to think in a structured way about doing an inventory of their online life and the digital legacy that they’d like to share.

Digital Services: How to keep passwords confidential while bequeathing them to your next of kin

Digital services for managing passwords and other important information

When doing your research on, there are some key factors to consider.

Understand how the digital service will share your data

Because of the online nature of these services, it’s worth fully understanding how the service will verify when it is time to share your confidential information. Some provide information to next of or nominated kin if the account holder hasn’t logged into the service for a period of time. Others will send prompts, such as emails or texts to customers periodically, asking them to confirm that they are still alive. If you don’t respond in a certain way or within a specified time period, you may end up sharing information with your nominated contacts before it’s time, something that will potentially be distressing, awkward and have security implications for you.

Look into the long-term strategy of the company offering digital services you’re interested in

Given that the digital afterlife industry is still an immature one, I’d recommend that you find out what the financial status or longer term vision is of the organisation that you’re considering. There have been a few mergers of late.

Shifts happen in any industry but it’s worth asking any potential company that’s going to be charged with your digital legacy, what its longer-term goals are and how it is going to support them. What are its contingency plans for your data if it expires before you do?

Understand the terms and conditions of the digital afterlife service

It’s worth re-iterating that you should check terms and conditions to fully understand what you’re subscribing to, what your responsibilities are when using the service as well as the service provider’s accountability to you. Be clear what kind of jurisdictional rules may apply to you and what its commitment is to you and your data.

Consider a Solicitor to hold a confidential list of sign in details for you

digital_passwords_when_someone_dies

Copyright: Patrick Hajzler

Damin Murdock, Principal Lawyer of the MurdockCheng Legal Practice based in Sydney suggests that when writing up a will, individuals remove any ambiguity about how they want their digital information dealt with upon their death.

“I always recommend my clients to have a list of all bank accounts, passwords, PIN numbers and so forth with respect to financial institutions,” Murdock says.

“The same should apply for digital accounts. Next time you see a lawyer to update your will, you should ask that lawyer to help you include your digital accounts, usernames and passwords. They can also work with you to provide for all intellectual property rights contained in each asset to be transferred to the respective beneficiary. Lastly, you can waive your rights to privacy so your Executor can gain access to your accounts and deal with them in accordance with your wishes (if this is what you really want).”

How can you keep your passwords confidential while providing to next of kin: using a legal adviser

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on kernaghanassociates and commented:
    A timely reminder for some

  2. It is important to bear in mind that when Probate is granted on a valid will in Australia (by the relevant State Supreme Court), the will becomes a public document. This means that any passwords or access codes contained in the will can be viewed by any stranger. Sure, there are ways to mitigate against this – for example, the Executor changing all the passwords or access codes – but there is a risk if not done quickly enough. There is also a risk of identity theft depending on the types of passwords or access codes used, such as pet names, etc.

    I recommend that this type of information should be left out of the will and stored as a seperate document of instructions to the executor. These instructions might be the passwords themselves or details of where the passwords have been stored.

    As such a document does not form part of the will, it will not appear on the public record. A much safer proposition, I’m sure you will agree.

    Piquet
    NetCounsel Lawyers
    http://www.NetCounselLawyers.com.au

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