Why your family should have your passwords

Why is sharing family passwords important?

Because we live in a digital world, we have passwords for almost everything: our phones, social media accounts, bank accounts, health spending accounts, utility accounts, and so much more. In fact, we have so many passwords that we have to use apps designed to help us remember and store all of our passwords! (Ironically, these apps also require a password.)

What happens to these accounts if something happens to you? Well, it partly depends on whether anyone has the passwords they need to access these accounts. You may not care about whether anyone will be able to access your Facebook account if you die. In fact, you may even be relieved that they can’t. But because many of your digital accounts contain critical information, it’s generally good practice to make sure your family has access to them. This will make it easier for them to pay your bills and deactivate your accounts so they can’t be hacked. (Yes, even when you’re dead, you aren’t safe from hackers.)

The challenge: Communicating your passwords safely and securely

Sharing your passwords with your family seems like it should be as easy as forwarding a dinner reservation confirmation email. But it’s not. In an age when data security and protection is a key concern, it’s pretty common for people to have different passwords for different accounts. This way, if one account is hacked, the rest are safe. Plus, people change their passwords all the time. After all, it’s usually much easier to just reset a password than to spend 10 minutes trying to remember it.

How to share your passwords

If you’re married, our first piece of advice is to take advantage of joint accounts any time they’re available. This way, your spouse or partner will have access to the account no matter what. You can often set up joint accounts for utility accounts; college savings plans for kids; and financial accounts, such as credit card and bank accounts.

For all of your other accounts, create a list of all of your passwords—financial and otherwise—and put it with your will, in a safety deposit box, and/or with your lawyer. We know you’d much rather spend a Sunday afternoon by checking out the newest brunch spot, lounging in a pool, or even binge watching reality TV. Creating a password list takes work (and not the fun kind). But because it’s so critical, carve out the time to put it together and try to revisit it once a year to make sure it’s up to date.

Creating a password list is especially important if you aren’t married. If you’re single and don’t share financial responsibilities with anyone, you need to make sure someone can easily handle your affairs right away if you die.

Which passwords should you share?

The easy answer is all of them. But there are some limits. You can argue that even your Netflix password is important to share because someone will need to cancel your account for you.

Fortunately, cancelling a credit card is usually enough to cancel any digital accounts that are linked to that card. So you can safely place Netflix at the bottom of your list.

Here’s the list of passwords that are most important to share:

  • Passwords to unlock your phone and computer
  • Email passwords
  • Passwords for bill payments, such as taxes, utilities, etc.
  • Financial passwords, including passwords for your bank account, investment account, PayPal account, or any other account where you receive money
  • Insurance (life, health, car, and home) account passwords
  • Social media passwords
  • Photo sharing passwords

It may seem like a ton of work. But trust us—a little bit of planning and organization will go a long way toward letting your family breathe easier.

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