The never-ending discussion in the media around our user names and passcodes are usually about how many of our accounts are compromised. On May, 5, 2016, Reuters reported on the hundreds of millions of hacked user names and passwords for email accounts and other websites are being traded in Russia’s criminal underworld.
The only advice that is offered is to change your passcodes frequently, and to not use the same ones on multiple sites. Many of us recognize how difficult it is to manage a few passcodes for the dozens of accounts we use regularly. Perhaps we should be coming up with a better solution than constantly reporting on the ongoing breaches.
Beyond the issue of how to manage our own accounts, is the larger discussion on how to protect and share our digital assets with loved ones as part of our lifestyle. Many of us have joint bank accounts, but don’t realize the individual bill-pay portals can be a huge roadblock when a crisis strikes and you need to step in. I want to make sure my family has a roadmap to step in and fill my duties should I be (hopefully temporarily) unable to perform them.
Beyond bill-payment, I manage most of the household maintenance, so the air filter shipments, details on the warranty for the dryer, and even the name of a plumber that will come after hours are all recorded so this information can be easily accessed. I also have a list of more than 80 user names, passcodes, and PINs, as well as answers to my security questions documented. Not only do I benefit (c’mon, how many of you will admit to not being able to answer your own security questions?) but this will also benefit my loved ones who might need to access these accounts.
You should have the following items in your tool kit to make sure your loved ones would be able to step in and help you while you are living–and that they have the proper documents to be able to assist you. They include:
- Durable power of attorney (DPOA). Every adult over 18 should name someone who could act on their behalf and take care of financial matters. Yours should incorporate language to address the changing issues surrounding your digital assets and footprint. If you haven’t updated your DPOA in five years, it might be time for a tune-up.
- Online inventory. Create a list of your user names, passcodes, PINS, and security questions (and keep it up to date) that could be accessed by the individual you have named in your power of attorney. If you use them, set up the legacy contact in Facebook, and the inactive account manager for Google accounts.
- Personal data profile. Leave a roadmap of your personal, financial, health and home records. Today, 70 percent of us turning 65 will need three or more years of long-term care. Not only will your loved ones need a copy of your durable power of attorney and healthcare directives, but they will need information to help you live the life you desire.
If you need a simple tool to help get you started, check out the best-selling MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. If you want a digital version, check out the MemoryBanc Register Flash Drive Edition.
I was interviewed on Parent Nation about why parents should have their kids document their usernames and passcodes. Most parents have no idea they have no right to the online accounts and assets of their children. It’s one of the ways our modern world has moved faster than the law and parenting guidebooks.
It’s not just a parenting concern, but should be a spousal concern. For those of you who share an Apple account, the The Washington Post recently carried a story, Her dying husband left her the house and the car, but he forgot the Apple password. This relatively simple issue makes no practical sense, but is the reality for those of you not aware that no marital rights or power of attorney can grant you this access. The idea of digital executor is still just a theoretical practice–unless you document your usernames and passcodes for the one who will step in and help or settle your affairs.
I think it’s so important, I have been giving away the chapter on “Taming the Internet” from MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. This chapter gives you free forms to help you take control of your online assets, as well as share the worksheets with loved ones who can document their accounts and put them in a sealed envelope you hope you never need to open. I keep mine by my computer and frequently rely on them to help me access the more than 80 accounts I have. Every quarter, I give back the envelopes to my family to update and return to me.
I never expected to learn so much during this phase of my life, but the least I can do is share it with others in hopes that it will save you time, effort, and grief.
The latest story that demonstrates the issues around our digital assets describes how the father of a best-selling novelist, Marsha Mehran, has been on an International data hunt to claim her writing stored online.
Apparently there is a “surge of families struggling with similar questions is driving a behind-the-scenes political battle between tech companies and estate lawyers over who gets the keys to someone’s digital afterlife.” Facebook and Google have set up options for a legacy contact, but the reality is that someone might need access to your information even when you are still on this planet.
My parents gave me a durable power of attorney so that I could step in to help if they needed it, but it didn’t give me access to any of my father’s business or personal online accounts. Thankfully, we could take care of this before he could no longer help me (my father had Alzheimer’s).
As a mom and wife, my husband and I need to share access to our bill-pay, utility, mobile phone and even our insurance portal since the information pertains to our shared lives.
Please take a minute to download the free guide that will help you tame the Internet.
The guide is a chapter from the best-selling MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life.
These three questions will test your online IQ. Can you correctly answer them?
- Could you change or stop an online bill payment set up by your spouse from your banking portal?
- Do you have the right to access your minor child’s online accounts?
- Can your durable power of attorney provide the individual you have named access to your online accounts?
The answer to all of these questions is “no.” U.S. laws have not kept up with the Internet and the benefits it brings to our lives. Most of us don’t actually read the “terms and conditions” we accept when signing up for our bank’s online portal, our free email account, Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or even LinkedIn.
None of these sites recognize parental rights for a minor or even a durable power of attorney. For those of us who use online services and email accounts, and enjoy the online bill-pay services provided by our banks, what we don’t know can hurt us. Even joint account holders are required to set up individual accounts and their online bill payment vendors are not shared. If you are incapacitated, the only way a loved one can get access is if you shared your username and passcode.
The Uniform Law Commission helps standardize state laws and recently endorsed a plan that would give loved ones access to—but not control of—the deceased’s digital accounts, unless specified otherwise in a will. However, the statistics prove that most of us will have a period in our lives where someone will need to act on our behalf and that includes managing and using our online accounts and services. Whether you went paperless and get bill pay notices to your email, the person helping you recover from a medical crisis needs access to your insurance portal, or you want your friends updated on your progress, having a backup system to allow someone into your online accounts is a safety net no one should be without.
We recommend you record your user names, passcodes, and security questions. Not only will you find it simplifies your life (no more passcode resets), but in a crisis, your loved ones will have what they need to help you.
If you don’t have a tool that documents this information for your own benefit and that can provide loved ones with needed information in an emergency, click here to download a free chapter called “Taming the Internet” from the Amazon best seller MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. This free download includes worksheets and details that will help you.
After having to step in and use a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) to assist my parents, I quickly found so many gaps in its functionality, I devised many work arounds with my Dad so I could help them.
Not only were we surprised to find that a number of financial institutions declined to accept the DPOA, but there are many facets of our digital lives that it doesn’t cover.
For those of us who use online services, email accounts and enjoy the online bill-pay services provided by our banks, what we don’t know can hurt us. If you haven’t stopped to read the “terms and conditions” you accepted, they typically state you can’t share the account and the provider basically dictates the rules. If you are incapacitated, the only way a loved one can get access is if you share your username and passcode.
The Uniform Law Commission helps standardize state laws and recently endorsed a plan that would give loved ones access to — but not control of — the deceased’s digital accounts, unless specified otherwise in a will. Given that at the age of 65, 7 out of 10 American’s will need 3 or more years of long-term care, we must recognize that most people will need someone to have access to these accounts while we are alive.
If you don’t have a list that documents this information for your own benefit and that can provide loved ones with needed information, click here to download a free chapter called “Taming the Internet” from the Amazon best-seller MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life that includes worksheets and details on how you can provide loved ones with the information they may need to help you.