Today I was interviewed on Parent Nation about why parents should have their kids document their usernames and passcodes. Most parents have no idea they have no right to the online accounts and assets of their children. It’s one of the ways our modern world has moved faster than the law and parenting guidebooks.
It’s not just a parenting concern, but should be a spousal concern. For those of you who share an Apple account, the The Washington Post recently carried a story, Her dying husband left her the house and the car, but he forgot the Apple password. This relatively simple issue makes no practical sense, but is the reality for those of you not aware that no marital rights or power of attorney can grant you this access. The idea of digital executor is still just a theoretical practice–unless you document your usernames and passcodes for the one who will step in and help or settle your affairs.
I think it’s so important, I have been giving away the chapter on “Taming the Internet” from MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. This chapter gives you free forms to help you take control of your online assets, as well as share the worksheets with loved ones who can document their accounts and put them in a sealed envelope you hope you never need to open. I keep mine by my computer and frequently rely on them to help me access the more than 80 accounts I have. Every quarter, I give back the envelopes to my family to update and return to me.
I never expected to learn so much during this phase of my life, but the least I can do is share it with others in hopes that it will save you time, effort, and grief. Delivered.
These three questions will test your online IQ. Can you correctly answer them?
Could you change or stop an online bill payment set up by your spouse from your banking portal?
Do you have the right to access your minor child’s online accounts?
Can your durable power of attorney provide the individual you have named access to your online accounts?
The answer to all of these questions is “no.” U.S. laws have not kept up with the Internet and the benefits it brings to our lives. Most of us don’t actually read the “terms and conditions” we accept when signing up for our bank’s online portal, our free email account, Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or even LinkedIn.
None of these sites recognize parental rights for a minor or even a durable power of attorney. For those of us who use online services and email accounts, and enjoy the online bill-pay services provided by our banks, what we don’t know can hurt us. Even joint account holders are required to set up individual accounts and their online bill payment vendors are not shared. If you are incapacitated, the only way a loved one can get access is if you shared your username and passcode.
The Uniform Law Commission helps standardize state laws and recently endorsed a plan that would give loved ones access to—but not control of—the deceased’s digital accounts, unless specified otherwise in a will. However, the statistics prove that most of us will have a period in our lives where someone will need to act on our behalf and that includes managing and using our online accounts and services. Whether you went paperless and get bill pay notices to your email, the person helping you recover from a medical crisis needs access to your insurance portal, or you want your friends updated on your progress, having a backup system to allow someone into your online accounts is a safety net no one should be without.
We recommend you record your user names, passcodes, and security questions. Not only will you find it simplifies your life (no more passcode resets), but in a crisis, your loved ones will have what they need to help you.
If you don’t have a tool that documents this information for your own benefit and that can provide loved ones with needed information in an emergency, click here to download a free chapter called “Taming the Internet” from the Amazon best seller MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. This free download includes worksheets and details that will help you.