Chipman Mazzucco Emerson LLC

Passwords and estate planning

One element of estate planning some people in Connecticut may overlook is sharing passwords with an executor or family member so that online accounts can be accessed after a person's death. This issue does not just affect family or other heirs. As one example, the founder of a cryptocurrency exchange died suddenly in December without sharing the necessary password to access clients' investments, and there may now be $190 million of inaccessible cryptocurrency.

People are often urged by security experts to avoid writing down their passwords, but there must be some way to allow people to access those accounts if the person dies or becomes incapacitated. One solution is to write down the passwords and place them in a safety deposit box. The disadvantage here is that the list must be updated anytime a password is changed, and many people may not be diligent enough to do so. Another solution is to simply share the passwords with a family member, but this may not be secure.

A digital wallet, such as LastPass, is yet another solution. With a digital wallet, all passwords are saved in one place, and an executor or other family members just needs a single password to access them all. It is best if the password is one that can be remembered and not written down.

There may be other issues with digital assets that need to be addressed in estate planning. For example, some website terms of service do not allow others to access the account even with a password. Therefore, people should make sure they know the legalities around each website. People may want to think not just in terms of financial accounts but about photos and access to other potentially sentimental items, both online and offline. These might cause more conflict than items of greater value and may need to be included in a will or trust.

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