Recording and saving online passwords in a safe place should be a foremost consideration and an integral part of long-term care estate planning should your loved one become incapacitated or die.
Even a decade ago, the keeping of gateways and access providers, such as passwords, must have seemed inconsequential to those charged with drawing up estate plans. That was before the advent of Twitter and YouTube, and all of the online banking, asset management and the like — when passwords to access these services hadn’t become such pervasive reminders of our recent technological prowess. Passwords have become ubiquitous enough that even our beloved elders use them liberally. The access codes are required for accessing almost everything on the World Wide Web, spidery as it is, and for most of us, our computers, hand-held devices, and other electronic gadgets that we’re constantly using are often locked from intruders (meaning anyone) until a user name and password are typed in.
Much of this secrecy is due to legitimate concerns and is extremely well-intentioned. Files and histories of sites that we visit on our computers are meant to be private. In the most ordinary sense, who wants the world to know every facet of our business? But by the same token, all of us have experienced the utter frustration that quickly develops if a password is suddenly misplaced or forgotten. Forgetting them is more common, considering that we may have so many, not just a few. But what if someone you love or know is laid low by incapacity or death, and the location or memory of these precious codes for navigating the Internet is suddenly gone?
This is no longer of little consequence. To a caregiver or family member responsible for a loved one, or more pointedly, for their affairs, access to certain information can be critical. Simply writing down a password on a scrap of paper may not be enough. While there is no easy solution for this problem, certain companies like Legacy Locker are attempting to address a burgeoning need. This site allows users to input their login credentials for the web services they access, where they are then kept safe until notification of the login info’s owner and relevant family members in the event of incapacity or death. Users can select which account information will be distributed and to whom. Such a service might seem like a good idea, but many people would be justifiably reluctant to share their Email accounts or social network profiles. What might work better for some would be an “online information” Confidential Insert added to an estate plan, which you’d provide directly to your Elder Law attorney, in connection with the preparation or update of your estate or long-term care plan while you are still of sound mind. This Confidential Insert would contain all passwords and other information for online access that would later be needed by your trusted agent, successor trustee, or executor. You would set the terms of its release. Alternatively, you might entrust this insert to your spouse, adult child, or other trusted person.
Gene Osofsky is an East Bay elder law attorney in California. Gene Osofsky specializes in Medi-Cal planning, wills, probate, trusts, nursing home issues, special needs planning, and disability planning. To learn more about East Bay elder law lawyers, East Bay elder law attorney, Medi-Cal planning, Medi-Cal planning lawyers and The Law Offices of Osofsky & Osofsky, visit Lawyerforseniors.com.