Current Trends - Passwords ... After You Pass - Episode 55
Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners –This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Welcome back for an another episode of Legal Tea! Today’s topic is a current trend … something going on in the current times, that I’ve stumbled across and is pertinent to my little estate and elder law world. Today’s topic involves your online/digital presence and specifically, your passwords that a majority of us have in our brains – and our brains only. But what happens when you pass? Will your loved ones get locked out because they don’t know your password? Will the company even let them gain access? Even, if they do, are they going to give my loved ones lots of headaches? What if, WHAT IF, you worked on this whole password issue now, while you’re living, to set things up beautifully so things are nice and easy on your loved ones when you pass away? And that’s what today is about, my friends. So lets dive in!
So just as a FYI, this episode is inspired by an article published on June 26, 2022 in The Wall Street Journal by Dalvin Brown titled, “How to Pass on your Passwords When you Die.” Well, there sure is no question what this article is about – ha! I’m going to break this episode into a few sub-topics: 1) Legacy Tools/Contacts; 2) Password Storage; and 3) When neither apply – when there is no such thing as a legacy tool/contact and you don’t want or have a password storage setup.
Before I dive in, too, I’m going to give a special shout-out to a company we have here in Indiana, but she can help clients all over – not just Indiana, called Rhea (pronounced Ray-uh) Services, which can help you pull alllllll this kind of information together (and way, way more) for you. She has a process that will “help you collect and organize your essential information so that you’re prepared for life’s unexpected events.” Check out her website, RHEAServices.com. We’ll talk a little more about her later!
Alrighty, so let’s talk about Legacy Tools/Legacy Contacts first. There are a few big-name companies that are actively doing this, namely Apple, Google and Facebook. When companies like these allow for you to designate legacy contacts, that is certainly not providing the contact your password at that point, but grants that person to have access to your account, and its data, at your passing. Further, Meta (which is the parent company of Facebook) allows your legacy contact to choose whether your Facebook profile remains on the platform, but as a “In Memory Of…” type of account, or whether the profile actually gets deleted. The Wall Street Journal by Brown provides instructions on how to setup a Facebook “legacy contact” – you just go to Settings & Privacy, then to Settings, then to Personal and Account Information, then to Account Ownership and Control, then to Memorialization Settings, then finally to Choose Legacy Contact.
Like Meta/Facebook, Google has a similar thing and process. Google has something called Inactive Account Manager, which allows you to decide what happens to your account, and its data, after you pass away. Going through this process allows you to designate not only “who” can receive the account/data, but also “how much” they receive – maybe you just want them to get access to emails, but not your videos or photos, you can control those things now. To get Google’s Inactive Account Manager setup, go to MyAccount.Google.com, go to More Option, then to Make a plan for your digital legacy. Boom, there you go!
And Apple, Apple has a similar process – they have the option to add Legacy Contact(s) who can access your iCloud account after you pass away, which could really come in handy (to have access to your iCloud account). Speaking of Apple, no offense to my Android users, but the article didn’t touch on Androids(!), you can set up a legacy contact on an iPhone by going to Settings, then Password & Security, then Legacy Contact. Like I mentioned earlier, if you do NOT do this, according to the article, Apple requires a Court Order in order to provide someone with the authority to access your Apple ID and its data. That’d just require extra headache and time, so let’s just do a legacy contact, shall we?!
As technology becomes more and more in our world (we already feel like we’re so reliant on technology, but I’m smart enough to know that we haven’t seen anything yet – technology is JUST getting started, in my opinion!), anyway, as technology becomes more prevalent, this topic will become a bigger and bigger issue – and I’m going to guess more and more companies will start offering legacy tools to enlist legacy contacts, so it’s something to stay up-to-date on.
Next, let’s talk about Password Storage – with this episode being about passwords and what happens to them when we pass, I’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about password storage websites like 1Password and LastPass. These websites, as the Wall Street Journal explains, store your current logins and help track (and create, if you want) passwords for any and all accounts you link to the service/website. Well, these types of websites allow you to designate, what they call digital heirs, which are the individuals who can access this website (which houses all the login information) after you pass away. A little tidbit the article shares that I thought was brilliant (and not earth-shattering, but so easily overlooked!) is that whoever your “legacy contact” is really needs to have access to your phone (and the phone’s passcode) because so often, places anymore have the “two factor authentication” which sends a number or code to your phone. If they can’t get on your phone to see the code, they will not be in great shape!
Finally, let’s talk about the topic many fall into – the “even though you’re telling me I should, I’m probably not going to put a “legacy contact” on all these accounts, Jenny” AND “that password storage site sounds scary!” …. Let me be clear, both the “legacy contact” idea AND password storage sites are great, great things to do, but it’s kind of like estate planning – some people will do it and be better off for it, and some people won’t do it even though we shout from the rooftop to do it. Honestly, I’d almost guess this topic/category is what many or most fall into. So, let’s spend some time on it and talk about other things that you can do that will still get you ahead:
1. First, to make all this easier, you could use a company like Rhea Services, the one I discussed earlier that helps you pull information and put it together in a lovely little fashion. Instead of you fumbling through all of this, they can guide you through it. That’s WHAT she does – and she does it well. Like I said earlier, too, she can help anyone across the country, so even if you’re an out of state Legal Tea Listener, if you’re interested, check out her website at RheaServices.com. You won’t be sorry!
2. Second, update your estate plan. This seems self-serving, but hear me out – because this whole topic of digital assets, digital presence, passwords, etc. is becoming a bigger and bigger thing, my little estate and elder law world is slowly coming with the times. Just a few years ago, the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act was passed – here, in Indiana since that is where this podcast is based from, it took effect here in 2016. This new law allows individuals like Power of Attorney, Personal Representative, Trustee, and/or Guardian to access your digital property should you become incapacitated and/or upon passing.
Because this was passed pretty recently, if you have an estate plan created beforehand, these “powers are not going to be included” so perhaps this is enough of a reason for you to update them to “bring them with the times” -or- if you do not have an estate plan, do make sure when you #DoYourEstatePlan, whatever attorney you are working with includes “digital assets” powers that this Act now-affords your designated people. This will at least give them a leg to stand on to access “online” things – would the legacy contact thing work better? Probably, because they’d be following the company’s process, but at least equipping your designated people will these powers will HELP, not hurt.
3. Lastly, on things you can do that will still get you ahead (if you don’t do the legacy contact thing or password storage thing), it sounds obvious – but simply be proactive about equipping your person with things to succeed. You know, oftentimes in meetings, this conversation comes up, so I hear clients say, “Hey if something happens to us, there’s a little red book in the top drawer of my desk in my office that has all my passwords” (or something similar, right?). Making sure your designated individuals KNOW where this little red book is (or whatever your version is of the little red book). Is this the fanciest way? Certainly not. A better, more tech-friendly way is doing this through a password storage site!
But, you know what? Some people are resistant to things like this. They like their “paper calendar” … they like to “balance their checkbook” … and they like to do things in a less tech-ish way. I’m not bashing you all; I carried a paper calendar for many, many years – far beyond when people were starting to shift to online/mobile calendars! Anyway, if you’re like that, merely having a ”little red book” is FAR better than not having one – and leaving your individual playing the least fun guessing game ever. Just don’t do that. Pull that information together, get it in some organized fashion, and for the LOVE, keep it updated!
I thought this whole digital asset/passwords/online presence topic was very timely – especially as more and more companies are equipping you with tools to make things easier on your loved ones when you pass. It seems many people probably have no idea these tools exist, so I was hoping to do this episode to spread some awareness – as always, if you have any follow-up questions, feel free to reach out to us at LegalTeaPodcast@gmail.com
Alrighty, next week’s topic is on estate planning of the rich and the famous – on that episode, we’re going to talk about the fashion icon, Audrey Hepburn. What is your guess – did it go well? Bad? You will just have to tune in next Tuesday to find out! Until then, Legal Tea Listeners, take care and be well!