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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Trusts and Estates Attorney In Sacramento County Warns, “Don’t Leave Loved Ones Stuck Without the Passwords To Your Online Accounts”

November 11, 2011

In the age of computers, we’re able to trade stocks, pay bills, connect with old friends, research virtually any topic or shop in an instant… all from the comfort of our living rooms.

And as more and more of us are creating online lives, we are also conditioned to protecting our privacy using private passwords and login-details. This extends to creating passwords for our computers and smartphones as well.

Security is important, but it’s also important to have a record of your various passwords and log-in details so that someone can access your files in the event of your sudden death or incapacity.

Recently, a colleague of mine had a client pass away unexpectedly. When she spoke with the client’s husband about gaining access to her files, he mentioned they were on her computer. What he didn’t know was the password to her computer. Fortunately after a few days of guessing they were able to crack the code, but not without causing much stress and anxiety for the family in the process.

There are a few ways you can organize your password protected accounts and in turn, avoid causing extra stress for loved ones in a difficult time. One of them is to simply create a list of your accounts (including email and social media accounts) to document all user names and passwords. Remember to include instructions on gaining access to your computer as well. Depending on the number of accounts you have, this can take 15-20 minutes or a few hours.

You can also include this information in a “letter of final instruction” or a “testamentary letter”. These types of letters are not legal documents, but they do provide direction on a variety of issues and concerns that you want to be made known upon your death. I will be writing a separate blog on those types of instructions in the near future, so stay tuned!

Remember, we are here to help, so if you have questions about this topic or other estate planning questions, please give our Gold River trusts and estate planning firm a call at (916) 241-9661.

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