Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why your Passwords should be in a Safe Place in case of Death

FTC disclaimer:  Many of my posts contain affiliate links.

In February 2014, my mother passed away.  After that, I started preparing things I never would have thought of in the event of my untimely demise.  My mother had been ill for a long time, and was not very computer savvy,  which made things easier in the online world.

Someone logged her out of every one of her accounts AND passworded her computer the night she passed away.  Yes, I know someone else did this and my mother didn't -- it was passworded AFTER my mother was pronounced dead.

First, the password that was put on Windows was able to be taken off by a computer expert.  The cost of this was about $100.  My mother was a writer and had many unpublished works on her hard drive, so the cost was well worth it as I hope to publish them posthumously.  In fact, my mother made me repeatedly promise I would do so.



Because my mother could never figure out passwords (and often called when sites asked you to log in "a strange screen I can't make go away") I knew all her passwords.  This included Facebook, e-mail, shopper's card to the grocery store, bill paying sites, bank account, utility payments, and more.

The person who logged her out of all these sites didn't expect me to have the passwords.  Without them, things would have been even harder in the weeks after her passing.  I lived with my mother and the house was inherited by me.  Being able to pay the utilities and see what has been paid was so helpful.  By having her e-mail address I was able to alert people I didn't personally know to her passing.  We used the same grocery store card, but it was linked to her e-mail address, and of course that needed to be changed.  I needed to make a phone call about that, and the store said they usually make people create a new account if the card was registered to the e-mail of the deceased, but because I knew the password, even though the card was in my name, it was registered to my mother's e-mail address.  The store said that rewards are like cash and they wouldn't want the wrong person getting access to them.

So, I purchased the book Putting Things in Order which is great because it has pockets for information, and it is a fill in book.  My husband knows where this is and can access it easily in the event I would pass away unexpectedly.  I hope I don't pass any time soon, of course.

In this book, I have a sealed envelope that lists all my online accounts and passwords.   I have chosen to do it this way because I can update it every time I change passwords.   It includes bank accounts of course, but also things like where I have photos stored.  I don't want family photos to be inaccessible to loved ones just because I didn't upload them all to a public website or get around to printing them.  I also include my social media accounts because I am friends with people my husband doesn't know and he would be able to let them know at some point that I have passed away.

Of course, if you have sites you won't want people to access, just don't write down the information!  I encourage you, though, to take a minute and think about what sites you would want people to be able to be able to use after your passing.  Those are the ones you should keep your passwords in a safe deposit box.  To take it one step further I also listed my commonly used security question answers, such as the last names of my school teachers, as I've seen different grades asked on different sites.  The name of my first and favorite pet, favorite book, mother's maiden name, father's middle name, street I grew up on, first job, etc. are all there.  I also have instructions about which accounts to close, etc.  For instance, I want my Facebook account to be memorialized which means it will exist, but will not be able to be logged into, thus preventing any hacking on it.

It's not a pleasant thought to think about our online presence once we are gone, but certainly one we have to consider in our digital age.

2 comments:

  1. Im so sorry for your loss. My sister told me about this. I have all my passwords in a composition note book so that way my daughter would have them. Its not fun thinking about passing away but it happens to all of us.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Im so sorry for your loss. My sister told me about this. I have all my passwords in a composition note book so that way my daughter would have them. Its not fun thinking about passing away but it happens to all of us.

    ReplyDelete