Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Problem With Going Paperless

Does anyone know your password to your online accounts? If not, they should.

That’s right, this is not a warning about security, this is a warning about the problem of making sure that your survivors have access to needed information in the event of your death or disability.

There is a growing trend towards managing assets online, oftentimes leaving your heirs with a lack of paper records and making them entirely dependent upon having access to your online accounts. If you don’t leave behind your user names and passwords, your information can be held so securely that it would require a court order, and costly legal proceedings, for your survivors just to gain access to the information. Special thanks to Michigan attorney William Josh Ard of Howard and Howard in Ann Arbor for bringing a recent article on this topic to my attention. As the author notes:
Keeping track of account passwords and Internet passwords is hard enough. Now imagine what can happen once a loved one is gone.

More and more people are using the Web to manage their financial and personal accounts. However, they don't think to leave behind user names and passwords with a trusted resource.
You may also recall the recent well-publicized court battle between the survivors of a Marine killed in Iraq and Yahoo, after the family, which did not have the account password, was denied access to the email account.

To avoid unnecessarily making your information inaccessible in the event it is needed by your loved ones, be sure to keep a current and complete list of all your accounts and login information. The list should be comprehensive, including everything from email accounts to bank accounts, investment accounts, credit cards - any other account that is password protected. Then, decide who else will receive or have access to the list, such as your spouse, adult children, financial advisor or estate planning attorney.

These problems apply equally to individuals and businesses. If your business depends on online accounts, make sure that the information on those accounts will be accessible to future owners, managers or employees who may need to take over the accounts with little or no advance notice.

Do you have a comment on this article or a suggestion as to how to maintain records of your online comments? I invite you to contact me or post a comment below.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I see that this article is over a year old, and I agree wholeheartedly. I have found the best way to manage the madrid of on-line accounts I have is to use an old unused A-Z franklin planner contact list that I never used due to having a palm. That way everything from my account to my Zoom INfo account can be found alphabetically, and I put down my username and password. My husband/kids and my senior staff know where those books can be found.