How to make sure your loved ones can access your accounts if you pass away.
It’s not fun to think about: But if you should unexpectedly die, could your spouse, partner, children or other loved ones access your bank accounts, online credit card portals, retirement accounts, and social media accounts?
If not, it’s time to share your passwords, log–in information, and location of your most important personal and financial information with at least one loved one, so that your relatives and beneficiaries can access your accounts should you pass away.
Consider it a pre-death plan that can make life easier for your spouse, children, or other relatives after your death.
Why someone needs access to your accounts
If you die and you are the only one who knows the passwords to your online mortgage and credit card portals or bank account, what happens if your survivors need to access these accounts?
If you’ve always handled your home loan payments, will your spouse be able to log onto your mortgage company’s website to make your monthly mortgage payment? Will your children be able to log into your bank account to access money to pay for your funeral expenses? Will your partner be able to continue making car loan payments on the vehicle you share?
If you’ve overseen paying your bills, you might not have shared most or any of your online accounts’ login information to others. That can cause problems for your spouse, partner or children after you die.
Then there are your social media accounts. You might not care what happens to these accounts after you die. But perhaps your children or partner want to close these accounts after you pass. Maybe they want to post a message to your followers stating that you have died. If they don’t have access to the usernames and passwords of these accounts, how can they do this?
Don’t put your passwords in your will
It’s smart to create a master list of your most important usernames and passwords that your survivors can access. But don’t list this information in your will.
Why? Your will becomes a public document after your death once it’s filed with your area’s local probate court. This means anyone can access your will and your usernames and passwords. They just need to visit your local county clerk’s office to request a copy of it.
If you’ve included your usernames and passwords in your will, then, curious members of the public can find them.
What can you do with your passwords?
You do have options, though. The easiest way to pass on your important online account information is to write it down. You can store this list in a safe place, maybe even keeping it in a safe deposit box, and state its location in your will. You can also state who should have access to your list.
It’s important, too, to designate the specific survivor whom you want to access your online accounts after you die. This might be your spouse, one of your children, another relative or even a friend. You might choose more than one person with whom to share your account information.
Your list of online account information should include the following:
- Any login information to your phones, computers, and other devices
- Login information to your online bank accounts
- The passwords and usernames for your credit card portals
- The usernames and passwords to your mortgage provider, if you pay your mortgage online
- Information on how to access your phone’s voicemail
- A list of your online subscriptions–such as streaming services, antivirus software, magazine subscriptions–and information on how to access and cancel these
- Access to your online cable and cell phone accounts
- The log-in information for your social media accounts
Consider a password manager
If you want to make life even simpler for your survivors, consider investing in a password manager. If you do, you can then save just one master password that you can share with your survivors after you die.
A password manager is a software application that stores and manages passwords for the sites that you visit. A password manager will store all your passwords in one encrypted database. You access this database by entering one master password.
With a password manager, you’ll need to memorize just one password to access every password you use. This single password will unlock your password manager’s vault, letting you retrieve every password saved in it.
Instead of compiling a long list of your online account passwords, you’ll just have to write down one. Save the paper with that list in a safe place—again, a safe deposit box will work—and include information on who can access it and how that person (or people) can get to it in your will.
The bottom line: Don’t keep your passwords a secret after you pass away
You don’t want to share your passwords with strangers while you’re alive, of course. But after you die? You might need to grant some of your survivors access to your financial accounts. It’s essential to save your passwords and usernames in a safe place and share this information with a family member, spouse, child, or friend. Otherwise, you might force your survivors to overcome a series of obstacles to access your key financial and personal accounts.