What happens to your digital life after your life?

We have recently had a number of customers retire or sell their practices. While many other companies do not, we allow our customers to transfer their software to another individual or organization with our approval. In our last newsletter, we set out some requirements and procedures for folks to follow. We also reminded them that they are likely governed by state licensing laws about record keeping and record maintenance specific to behavioral health professionals. Those records belong to your patients, not to you as the provider, so some mechanism must be established for them to obtain the record if they want it.

But what about all your personal accounts and data? What should you do to make sure that the appropriate people have access to your information when you die or are no longer competent to or interested in dealing with everything you have done online? How will you assure that your family can access the hundreds of photos you have stored in the cloud? Do you know if you have a right to pass on your library of ebooks or your digital music collection?

A couple of weeks ago, I read some comments made by a colleague, Bruce G. Borkosky, Psy.D., about passing on digital account information when you die. He talked about the password management program that he uses (LastPass) and the way they are handling transfer of your passwords to a designated individual.

One of the best things you can do for your loved ones, after you pass, is to given them access to your accounts. With a password manager, this can be done pretty easily (doesn’t take care of things where the person needs legal access, of course, such as financial or health).
You could give them the master ps, of course. Better, though, I just discovered a feature in lastpass.com. It works like this:
1. loved one signs up for free lastpass.
2. you send them a one-time invite to be your emergency-handler
3. they accept.
4. you specify a waiting period (so you can decline a wrongful request)
then, in case of your illness or untimely death:
5.  they request access to your account
6. they wait the waiting period
7. your passwords show up on their account
Bruce G. Borkosky, Psy.D., P.A.
Sebring, FL

Blog author Angela Alcorn shares Dr. Borkosky’s enthusiasm about using LastPass for this purpose. There are other password management products (Roboform, Keepass, DashLane*) that are free or inexpensive. You could always just leave the master password to that manager you have chosen in your safe deposit box.

A quick Google search of ‘access to password accounts after death’ had over 42 million hits, so I guess some other people are thinking about this, too.

Recently, Apple refused to reset the device password for a widow who shared her iPad with her husband. She had the password to the app she used, but not the one to login to the device. They told her to get a court order. Estate planning attorney Jim Lamm (Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota) has created a digital audit that can be maintained on paper or in a document to provide your heirs with this important information. Lamm’s blog (Digitalpassing.com) focuses on this issue.

One of the biggest challenges is keeping the information current. Most of us are not privileged with the information about when we are going to die and there is a real tendency to put off attending to matters such as these. A password management program keeps itself updated.

This article on computerhope.com suggests a sealed envelope with all the necessary information…and an online password manager. But a company called PasswordBox.com and Legacy Locker have developed specific tools for this purpose. Google and the other services have their own mechanisms for handling the accounts of deceased users. Do you have any idea what those mechanisms are for the banks and other companies with whom you do business or for the email services you utilize?

I know that many people will look at this and think that it is just too morbid to consider. Others are planners and have their wills and personal instructions all in place. Where do you fit on the continuum from ‘have it all in place’ to ‘I won’t even think about this’? What do you want to happen to your digital life after your life?

Please share your thoughts and comments below.

*Neither SOS nor I have any proprietary or financial interest in any of these companies or products.


0 thoughts on “What happens to your digital life after your life?

  • I have a terrible habit of not remembering my passwords, there are so many and they are always updating. As a result I have given some of them to my husband, I mean geez, I log into iTunes about once a year! It hadn’t really occurred to me who would close my Pintrest, Gmail and Wayfair accounts when I am, well, no longer in need of them. This is a sensitive issue I suppose but also a practical one. I have recently started taking photos of my passwords with the date and key elements to remind me what those passwords are for and approximately when they were effective; I usually add some fake out letters or symbols, just in case. I suppose should teach my husband my code and ask him to do the same. Sadly you just never know and while we may not like to think about it, the fact is, birth certificates don’t come with expiration dates.

    • Thanks for your comment, Deborah. You sound like a person in need of a password management program. You really should check out one of those mentioned in the article to see if they might work for you. Then you can give your husband just the master password!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.