When 78 year old Anne lost her husband James to an accident, she realized that she had no idea what his passwords were. She couldn’t access his Apple account on the iPhone, iPad and computer that they had stored all their data on. On calling Apple to get help, she was advised that she needs to do a lot to access the accounts.
Technology has processed faster than the regulations that need to be set up to make sure that digital data is handled in the same manner to physical assets when someone eventually passes on.
Many suggestions have come up, with people suggesting that we need to take it upon ourselves to let our loved ones have access to our digital assets.
This is because all our lives are now wrapped around the digital devices that we have. We have stored our passwords, account details and memories behind a single password that only we know about. With this said, it seems we need to begin planning what will happen to our digital assets sooner than later.
Case Scenario: Bitcoin and Death
Now that digital currency is the in thing and everyone has a bitcoin wallet, have you ever thought about what happens to your bitcoin when you pass on?
A recent article talked about how nearly 4 million dollars’ worth of bitcoin has been lost forever – just like that. The loss has been attributed to the early buyers who threw out their old hard drives that held their coins.
If you are the kind of person that thinks ahead, then you must have organized for the private keys to be given to a loved one. If you are like everyone else, then there is a high chance that you have kept your private keys to yourself and you don’t have a plan on what happens when you die.
If you have a will, then it is prudent that you include this information in the will. However, now that many adults don’t bother about the will, a lot of bitcoin will end up being buried with their owners.
To keep your coins alive, you have a few things that you can do. One, you can keep the private keys in a safety box and organize for the beneficiaries to get a key when you die. You can also talk to your estate attorney to set up a smart contract for you so that the coins are released to your family.
It remains upon you to choose what happens to the coins after death – you can even pass them to a charity of your choice.
What Happens when you don’t have a Plan?
If you would pass away this week, will your digital assets get to your beneficiaries? Will they have your PayPal passwords, and will they even know how much you held in bitcoin?
The internet won’t realize that you died, and the accounts that you have will stay active for many years to come. Your family will try to piece together the loose ends of your life including the online accounts, but without the passwords to these accounts, it will be an impossible task.
Some companies have put down a process of getting information that you need when a loved one passes away. Your family needs to provide a formal letter telling Yahoo to give them access to the account, a copy of a document that appoints the individual as a beneficiary and a copy of the death certificate. This takes time, and most times it doesn’t get approved because fraud is on the rise.
Another hurdle that the family has to deal with is knowing the number of accounts you have online. They might make wild guesses depending on the history you have on your browsers, but this might also get deleted after some time. It is prudent that you have a list written somewhere so that they don’t miss out on managing an account when you are gone.
Idle Digital Assets Aren’t Safe Anymore
When your family is trying to hunt down your accounts and struggling to guess your passwords, your account is prone to cyber-attacks.
Your family doesn’t have the tools or capability to get the passwords, but hackers will do this easily. Combined with poor password practices, hackers can easily access the account of the deceased before the family gets there.
Once a hacker gains access to one account, it is easy to gain access to another one because many people have one unique password for all their online accounts. And even when the service provider alerts the account owner, and there is no one to read this alert, your family won’t know that the account has been hacked.
It is prudent that you prepare for the unexpected when it comes to your digital assets. This starts with having your data stored somewhere that your family will get access to when anything happens to you. Consult your estate planning attorney for advice on this task.