How can I give my family the info they'll need in case I die?
December 30, 2016 6:45 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to provide my family with a document listing my financial accounts & logins. Also social media accounts, and the passwords to my phone and computer. What's the best way to do that?

Options I've considered...

1) Put it in a safe deposit box.

This could work for someone with nearby family. In my case, they'd have to get on a plane. Also, every time I change a login or open or close an account, I'd have to go to the bank and update the document.

2) Share an encrypted document via iCloud or Dropbox.

This depends on them remembering a password and the location of a document on the Internet. They're going to write it down and leave it someplace that seems secure to them, like their car. I love my family, but sometimes they don't listen.

Is there some standard, generally-accepted solution to this problem?

If not, I'll probably just go with an encrypted document in iCloud and hope for the best.

(By the way, I have an appointment with an lawyer next week to draw up a will, durable power of attorney, etc. So the legalities are getting organized. I'm still trying to figure out this communication question, though.)
posted by trevor_case to Human Relations (21 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
This could work for someone with nearby family. In my case, they'd have to get on a plane.

If you are dead, they are getting on a plane. Alternately a shared safe deposit box with a local friend who can be instructed to give that information to your family in the event that something happens to you?

This really depends how much you want to balance security with ease of use. My dad had a Google document called PASSWORDS which had the passwords to basically everything which was very very great to have when he died suddenly. We knew the password to his Google account (and he was logged in when he died) so it was simplest that way. If you're drawing this stuff up with a lawyer I do suggest some sort of "Here is the key to unlock the other stuff" approach and you could even leave it with the lawyer if you wanted.

Or just a well-hidden envelope in your house somewhere with the unlock password. Or a thumb drive with a note "This is encrypted with the name of our first dog" or something family would know and robbers wouldn't?
posted by jessamyn at 6:49 PM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you are looking for a technical solution, you might try searching using the term Dead man's switch.

I've seen this service before, but don't know anything about it beyond that it exists.

As a serious suggestion, talk to the lawyer you are meeting about it. I imagine this is a somewhat common question in estate planning.
posted by graxe at 7:06 PM on December 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Dead man's switch
On preview: jinx

But it's the app I use
posted by janey47 at 7:09 PM on December 30, 2016


Make a document with everything, password-protect it in some way, and write the password on an inconspicuous place on a wall in your house somewhere (like, inside of a closet). Tell them where the PW is written. If you die, God forbid, they will have to come to your house. They can find the password when they get there.
posted by mccxxiii at 7:21 PM on December 30, 2016


1+2: Leave a password and location of the file in the safe deposit box. Update the encrypted file at your leisure.
posted by zamboni at 7:26 PM on December 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


They should not be using your login and password to access your accounts. The executor will gain access to your account using your death certificate. Some financial institutions lock online account access as soon as they are notified of your death. (This shutdown of the deceased's online access happened to me as an executor. Huge PITA.)

Instead of trying to give them access through your logins discuss putting the list of accounts in your letter of instruction to the executor. Your estate attorney is your guide here.
posted by 26.2 at 7:28 PM on December 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


Keep it as simple as possible. I have one Word document with all logins and passwords, plus instructions about my memorial service, etc. that's saved in Dropbox. The link to the file was sent to my brother, who I trust implicitly not to use it for ill, plus he's the most tech savvy member of my family.
posted by MsMolly at 7:43 PM on December 30, 2016


My gmail password and a list of auto-pay bills to be aware of is listed in a note that I included in the copy of my advance directive that I gave to the people who are in charge in the event the directive goes into effect. I update this approximately yearly. (The copy filed with my doctor's office does not have the note.)

I used to just put details in an envelope tacked up above my desk labeled "In case of emergency" but I think the advance directive is more efficient. I now have a card listing who my roommates should call as my emergency contact tacked there (and repeated in my day planner) instead.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:45 PM on December 30, 2016


Do you use a password manager, and would someone in your family be familiar enough with them to use it? I would give the lawyer an envelope with the master password (updated as needed).
posted by third word on a random page at 7:51 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do you use a password manager, and would someone in your family be familiar enough with them to use it? I would give the lawyer an envelope with the master password (updated as needed).
Yes, I use 1Password.

I can't give the master password to the lawyer, though—I don't know her personally.

But I'm thinking about giving it to a few family members, maybe.

The problem is, everything from retirement accounts to trivial nonsense is in there, going back for years.

I think it might be saner to maintain an encrypted "passwords" file with a relevant subset in Dropbox. A few people have mentioned solutions more-or-less along those lines.
posted by trevor_case at 8:03 PM on December 30, 2016


One theoretical solution is secret-sharing encryption. You create three keys and give them to three different family members. Any two of the three together can unlock the encrypted document. That way, if Uncle Bob writes his key down someplace and someone steals it, unless you're interesting enough that the attacker would target the other two, there's no real risk. The commercial version of PGP supported this and gfshare on Linux does as well. I don't know if the latter has been formally validated for security and in any case, it sounds like that might be an overly complicated solution for your family members.

More practically, you might create a separate e-mail account that only holds the key and has a dead man switch, so if your personal account happens to get compromised it doesn't give away everything.

Also, think in terms of what your survivors are going to need access to within a month/year and consider splitting your data dump into two or more parts, based on things like how rapidly they need to be dealt with and how hard the service provider makes changes without knowing the password.
posted by Candleman at 9:54 PM on December 30, 2016


I use LastPass, which has an option to allow another account to gain access to your passwords, with an optional waiting period in which you can veto the request. Perhaps 1Password has something similar?
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 9:56 PM on December 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you don't trust your lawyer not to try to do you harm using the information you give her in the course of working on your case, you need a new lawyer. This stuff is important, and you need to trust the person you're working with. I wouldn't let a lawyer prepare my will if I didn't trust her. So that's where I'd start: work with a lawyer you can trust, so that your lawyer can do the job you're paying her for. This kind of thing can be part of that job.
posted by decathecting at 11:00 PM on December 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes, slightly confused why your lawyer would not be the person to give this to to pass to the executor? Most of us don't 'know' our lawyers but we trust them based on the professional standards they are bound by.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:01 AM on December 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am using www.everplans.com which I share with my executors. So far so good!
Also a letter in Dropbox which I share with an executor.
posted by lungtaworld at 2:29 AM on December 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


I recommend that my clients use two forms that I have developed. The first is a Digital and Online Inventory, which stores the URLs and passwords of online accounts, including email, social media, retail, online banking, blogs, etc. The second is a grid showing all assets, with account numbers, amounts involved, and contact information for each. That is where they can organize their bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement plans, insurance information, employer contacts for benefits, etc.

I disagree with the suggestion that all of this should be "left to the executor." Many people will have organized their lives in such a fashion that there is no estate and there will be no executor. And these issues will also arise for a person incapacitated by a sudden illness or injury.

At least one or two bank accounts (online or not) should be immediately accessible to whomever will need them to make sure that key current bills are paid for the two to twenty weeks it will take to get things sorted out. This includes utilities, mortgage payments, etc. For online accounts where regular bills and payments are to be made, they need to have access so that the payments will stop in light of the fact that regular deposits are no longer made.

In the case of a person suffering a sudden disability, in particular, his family needs to make sure that insurance premiums will continue to be paid so that coverage is not interrupted.

There are a handful of online services that offer this kind of storage, but as is the case with other internet businesses, the vendors come and go over time. I recently had occasion to try to track down a company called LegacyLocker, only to find that it had been acquired by another called PasswordBox. Following the provided link to that company led to another page offering to "introduce" me to TrueKey. Doesn't instill much confidence in long-term continuity.

A book called If Something Should Happen - How to Organize Your Financial and Legal Affairs is published by the American Institute for Economic Research and is available online at this link. It includes a number of useful forms.
posted by megatherium at 5:16 AM on December 31, 2016 [13 favorites]


Emergency access is a nice function of some password managers, as matildatakesovertheworld mentions above. From a quick search, it looks like 1password does not have this function, though it has been requested:
https://discussions.agilebits.com/discussion/57963/feature-request-for-emergency-access

Here it is for LastPass:
https://helpdesk.lastpass.com/emergency-access/

For Dashlane:
https://csdashlane.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/202625012-What-is-the-Emergency-feature-and-how-to-use-it-

(I am not technical enough to address the security questions raised in the first link)
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 5:36 AM on December 31, 2016


If you don't trust your lawyer [...] you need a new lawyer. [...] So that's where I'd start: work with a lawyer you can trust.
---
Yes, slightly confused why your lawyer would not be the person to give this to to pass to the executor? Most of us don't 'know' our lawyers but we trust them based on the professional standards they are bound by.
Ok, thanks. When I meet with her next week, I'll ask whether that's a service she provides.

I have no specific reason to distrust her. It's just that I've never met her before. She isn't someone I know. But I'll ask her about it.

My employer provides a "legal plan" benefit. I called the plan and they gave me a list of lawyers. That's how I found her.

She's a solo practitioner. I wonder if it would be safer to go to a firm instead? That way, if something happened to my particular lawyer, the firm would still exist and they'd have my file. Does that make sense?

(In that case I'd have to pay for it myself, but that's alright.)
posted by trevor_case at 9:09 AM on December 31, 2016


There are a handful of online services that offer this kind of storage, but as is the case with other internet businesses, the vendors come and go over time. I recently had occasion to try to track down a company called LegacyLocker, only to find that it had been acquired by another called PasswordBox. Following the provided link to that company led to another page offering to "introduce" me to TrueKey. Doesn't instill much confidence in long-term continuity.
Yeah, this is exactly why I'm hesitant to rely completely on any one person or product.

My worst nightmare is I get all this stuff together, then 1Password/Dashlane/whatever goes out of business and my family can't get into anything.

I think Dropbox is ok though. They're huge enough that if they crater or get acquired it'll be front page news and there'll probably be time to rescue the data.

Thanks for the book reference. That's very helpful.
posted by trevor_case at 9:24 AM on December 31, 2016


You can ask the solo practitioner whether *she* has a succession plan for her practice. A good one will. Also remember that the service you use doesn't need to last forever - chances are you'll be regularly making updates - you just need to keep on top of any changes so you can adapt as necessary. Hopefully by the time you die there'll be some well-established, easy option, because it'll be a very long time from now.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:24 PM on December 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is a job for your lawyer, 100% Your family should not have access to the bank accounts.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:05 PM on December 31, 2016


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