A Cautionary Tale About Your Digital Afterlife

A Cautionary Tale About Your Digital Afterlife

Password LockRecently I posted a cheery blog post called Going Paperless And Your Digital Afterlife. At the risk of being obnoxious and quoting myself:

Have you ever thought about what will happen to your digital accounts and assets if you get hit by a bus tomorrow? Will someone be able to get to your email? What will happen to your online presence?

Most importantly from a going paperless perspective, does someone know how to get at your files and do they have the rights to do so?

This post resonated with a lot of people, and I received one story from awesome DocumentSnap reader Jay Hinkens, a financial planner from Middleton Wisconsin. Here’s Jay’s story in italics below:

The subject of the digital afterlife has been brought to the forefront for me with the passing of one of my cousins recently. He was a small business owner that was rather technologically savvy and was a heavy user of paperless processes. He had all of his client files encrypted with what I presume to be strong passwords. Unfortunately, no one knew his passwords. Not his business partner, not his wife or children. No one. All of his records and files—personal and business—are as good as gone since no one has access to them.

The valuation placed on his business was lower than it could have been because we weren’t able to provide the buyer with any client data beyond the contact information synchronized to his smartphone.

After this tragic event I have shared all of my 1Password and computer access passwords with my family and keep copies in my firebox. Like my cousin, I am a financial planner. I now include a section on digital password security and sharing with my clients as part of the planning process. The 1Password Emergency Kit will simplify this even more.

While I am very sorry to hear about Jay’s cousin, I am thankful that Jay decided to share his story to help others. We all focus a lot on keeping our electronic documents as secure as possible, but remember: at least someone needs to be able to get at this stuff if we can’t.

(Photo by binaryCoco)

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

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Jennifer Lyle - February 3, 2015 Reply

Brooks, Thanks so much for this. This is a topic very much on my mind for all the reasons stated. I’ve also secured a copy of the 1Password emergency kit, which I’ll adapt for the password manager I use. This is so incredibly important for al of us. Not just for we who run our business lives online, but for everyone who is online.

In my case, those who would be our executors aren’t necessarily tech-savvy. It’s more than a matter of having access to the data — it’s also knowing what to do with the data that is there. I’ve identified a family member who understands technology and would know how to handle the data. It’s now a matter of making sure that the legal rights are all in order.

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