Digital Life Continuity Planning
When my father died eight years ago, we didn’t know the password for his laptop. It was a problem because he kept some of his and my mom’s financial information on his hard drive and we couldn’t retrieve it. It took months of phone calls and thousands of dollars of legal fees to get his estate straightened out.
The world has changed considerably since my dad’s death and most of us have a digital life that parallels our physical one, with a wide range of online accounts and subscription services that we pay for on a monthly or annual basis. Most of those payments are automatic and will continue until your credit card expires or your bank account empties.
But what will happen to your family or dependents if you die or are physically incapacitated and they rely on your bank account or digital income? Do they know how to turn off the subscription services you don’t need anymore or how to access your bank accounts or online payment services, like Paypal? If you have a recurring digital revenue stream, will they be able to live off the income or sell the assets when you are gone?
In the old days, life was a lot simpler. No one had gig jobs on the side or a digital life separate from their online life. That’s no longer true. Take a look at the number of services you subscribe to or the income streams that you receive. Do your spouse or partner or kids know what they are, how much you spend per month, which ones are essential and how to turn the rest off? Do they know the passwords to your phone, email accounts, and computers? Do you store this information anywhere in a form that they can retrieve?
If you don’t document this information or give them easy access to it, this is probably a good time to write it all down and give them a copy. I use an encrypted password manager (LastPass) to keep track of the dozens of online services and payment accounts I use on a daily basis, which is very helpful for keeping track of things. It works across my two laptops, iPad, and phone as well which is most convenient.
LastPass also lets me share my passwords with family members if it becomes necessary, which can be helpful if you become incapacitated or kick the bucket. Lastpass also has Family Plans, so everyone in your family can take advantage of the service, share passwords in an emergency, and generate very strong passwords for all of the online services they use.
If you’re stuck at home and looking for things to do besides your taxes, documenting your passwords is one of those tasks that your family will appreciate if it’s necessary. While you may vanish from the face of the earth, your electronic life will carry on unless someone turns it off or merges it with their own.
Disclosure: The author purchased LastPass with his own funds and recommends it highly.