Estate planning should include passwords

Note: This article has been repurposed from another blog of mine.

Like many lawyers, I do some estate planning for clients. I do not get into heavy duty inheritance or estate tax avoidance plans since those are beyond my comfort zone. I try, however, to make my estate plans somewhat different so they stand out among other lawyers’ work. For example, I include extra items to deal with guardianship issues for children.

After a colleague posed a question to me a couple of weeks ago, I realize that I can add something else that will be an unusual feature: Internet passwords.

So much of our lives is dealt with online. We pay bills, subscribe to services, network with friends and colleagues. In most cases, I don’t even receive a bill through the mail. The bill shows up in my email inbox, and it gets paid. Easy and convenient.

When you die, what happens to these online accounts? Will your family know what the password is to log in and pay the mortgage? It may be worth the time to think about how you will make sure that your family will have access to the various passwords. Using a password management system like 1Password or LastPass helps, and then all you have to do is leave behind the master password (and update the record when you change your master password). [These services also make it easier to use long, random passwords–but why you should do that is a topic for another day.]

What methods do you use to make sure your passwords will be available to your loved ones after you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil (apologies to my good friend Bill Shakespeare)?

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