How Can I Protect My Passwords and Give Access if Something Happens to Me?
One of the things we don’t often think about but that is critical to our existence is our online presence.
It’s not just the bank account login that you have. Think about your electronic life. Facebook. Instagram. LinkedIn. Email. Snapchat. Your iPhone. Your computer. Paypal. Amazon. Retirement account.
Basically anything that has a password is subject to being cut off if you are injured or die. That may not sound like such a big deal, but if your significant other or the person responsible for you if you become incapacitated could have huge problems if they don’t have access to this information.
So What’s the Solution?
Thankfully the solution to this problem is pretty simple. It just takes a little bit of planning up front and everything can be taken care of.
The first thing you need to do (and should do anyway) is get a password management tool to manage all of the passwords you have for all of your sites.
The tool I use is called LastPass. What’s cool about LastPass isn’t just that it stores all of your passwords safely, but it does so across all of your mobile devices.
Here’s how it works. You have one password for LastPass. This is how you login and manage all of your other passwords. You want to make this password VERY strong and keep it VERY secure.
Once you have your LastPass account you simply add all of the login information to LastPass, including making those passwords extremely strong (it’s okay now because you just have to remember the one password). When you visit this site in the future your information will be automatically populated by LastPass.
Why LastPass is Helpful While You are Alive
LastPass has a ton of really cool features, but one of the coolest is the ability to share your site information with someone else while still maintaining complete control over your account.
So, for example, if your accountant wants access to your bank feed, you can do that via LastPass. They simply create a LastPass account and then within the site you can share your login information with them.
It’s 100% secure, and you can revoke access at any time.
To give you an example, I use LastPass to share login information for a lot of my resources with my staff. If anyone leaves or something happens, I don’t have to go through and revoke access in a bunch of different places. I simply login to LastPass and revoke everything from there.
How to Use LastPass for Incapacitation
“Okay,” you might be thinking. “How can I use this if I am disabled or die? I don’t want to give access to all of my stuff to someone before something happens to me.”
It’s pretty simple, really. Again, you just have to plan ahead a little.
First, the person you name as your guardian if you are incapacitated you are going to trust, hopefully, so when they get your information the plan is for them to use it for good.
The simple solution is to include your LastPass password (the big one that unlocks everything) with your Guardian instructions (you do have guardian instructions right?). When you outline how you would like to be cared for, how you want your money spent, and all of the other details you want to cover, you simply add in your LastPass master password so they can have access to your electronic life.
How to Use LastPass for Death
If you prepare for someone to take care of you if you are disabled the steps for preparing the person who will take care of your estate is very similar.
The only difference is that you’d put your master password information wherever you leave the instructions for your executor or trustee. This could be a safe deposit box, with your estate planning attorney, or where ever else you deem appropriate.
The two important considerations to keep in mind here are: (1) you want to keep your master password safe because of the information it unlocks; and (2) you don’t want to keep it so safe that if you need it but can’t access it there’s no one else that knows how to get access.
How to Use LastPass in Emergencies
When it comes to this stuff, there is always a gray area. What if you are involved in a serious accident and aren’t technically disabled but will not be functional for months?
What if you disappear for some reason and your family needs access to your information (believe it or not this stuff happens)?
One final consideration might be to have a plan so your spouse or significant other can access LastPass in an emergency that doesn’t meet the scenarios we’ve covered above.
This, also, is easy to manage, if you plan ahead.
There’s a story I’ve heard a million times and it goes something like this: a new CEO was hired at a multi-million dollar company. On his first day on the job he got a call from the old CEO. The old CEO told him “there are 3 letters in your desk, labeled ‘failure 1’, ‘failure 2’, and ‘failure 3’. When an event comes up, open the appropriate letter.”
When the CEO suffered his first major setback he opened letter number 1. It said “blame your predecessor.” He did and everything was great.
When the CEO suffered his second major setback he opened letter number 2. It said “blame your equipment.” He did and everything was great.
When the CEO suffered his third major setback he opened letter number 3. It said “write three letters.”
The point of the story? Plan for an emergency with some instructions in an envelope.
Here’s what I mean. Take your super strong password and hide it somewhere where only your significant other or the person you’d want to find it can find it. Tape it under your desk or write it on a desk or something like that. Tell them about where it is and ask them about it from time to time.
Second, write a letter out to be opened in an emergency. In that letter you provide all of the instructions EXCEPT the password. Tell them the site to go to, what to do when they login, etc.
One important point: don’t put the entire instructions in one place.
The worst thing that could happen is someone break into your house and find the instructions and the password. That would not be good.
Don’t Leave Your Family Hanging in the Wind
You could accomplish all of these things with just a couple of hours of work, and the benefit to your family if anything ever happened to you would be exponential to that time.
Planning for this stuff isn’t fun. Thinking about death and disability isn’t fun.
But if you are like me and live for your family, you’ll want to make sure they are protected even when you aren’t there to protect them (and you are protected too).
Take an afternoon, do this work, sleep easy moving forward.
P.S. Do you have kids? Have you completed guardianship paperwork? Have you done it correctly? Click here to find out what happens if you don’t do anything: Are you okay with a judge choosing the guardians of your children?
P.P.S. Do you own a business? Do you have a plan so the business, and your family, can survive if something happens to you? If not, click here to learn how simple it is to protect your business and your family from tragedy: 5 Ways to Protect Your Business from Catastrophic Failure.
P.P.S. Do you have no kids and think you don’t need an estate plan? Single and think a will is only for married couples. You couldn’t be more wrong. Click here to learn more: 5 reasons estate planning is a must have even if you don’t have kids.
Christopher Small is a Kirkland estate planning attorney who helps people get rich and live forever. He is also the owner of CMS Law Firm LLC.