Last post, I wrote about digital estate planning and you can read it more here. The question I raised is that there has to be a solution. And there is partially one but there is not a full proof one.
You could simply have a slip of paper listing all your information and store it in your house somewhere readily available. That doesn’t sound completely safe.
One practical solution is to keep a list of passwords and similar information on a flash drive or stored on your computer somewhere but name the file something unique – i.e., not “passwords.” Of course, informing a person you trust about the file is important or no one will ever find it. Or you could put the flash drive in a safety deposit box making sure someone knows where it is. However, many providers require periodic updating of your password. That means a trip to the bank every time you update a password. That does not seem practical.
Another possibility is to create a power of attorney. That might grant access to email accounts but would not be a complete solution. The Power of Attorney might not trump every provider’s policy.
Where there is a demand for services, new companies will appear to meet those demands including several commercial providers to address this very issue. One commercial service, Legacy Locker, acts like a safe deposit box for your log-ins, account information, etc. Legacy Locker also provides personalized instructions to survivors as to how you want your online identity handled. As this market develops, I would guess more commercial services will open. As I have never used any of these services, I cannot vouch for them personally, but they are options to consider.
Even better news is that some states have started to recognize the need to plan a person’s digital estate. For example, on November 1, 2010, estate executors or administrators in Oklahoma will have the power to access, administer or terminate the online social media accounts of the deceased, according to a new state law. No cases have been brought to determine how the state law works within the confines of a provider’s service agreement, but it is a start.
With estate planning, most people think about creating a will or trust or protecting their home and do not think about their virtual life. As our lives have become intertwined with technology, the need to plan an “electronic” estate has grown such that ignoring your virtual life can trigger estate issues down the road.