05 Oct

My “Little Black Book” of Passwords

October 05, 2009

I’ve had a small black book in my possession for 8-9 years. No, it is not a list of past girlfriends; each page is devoted to a different part of my financial life or my plethora of passwords. Just to give a few examples:

  • One page is devoted to each life insurance policy I keep on my wife and I. I detail the issue date, policy number, annual premium, the term and the toll-free phone number for the insurance company.
  • A page is devoted to my online bank bill-pay and checking account (including passwords).
  • Another page describes how to access my 401k information online (passwords).
  • Still another page tells how to find my health care benefits online.
  • I also have a myriad of internet accounts (Amazon, Ebay, Expedia, etc.) that each has its own distinct password combination needed to access them.

In all, I have 50+ pages filled out. They say you’re never supposed to write down this type of information; the experts say create strong and varied passwords for all your accounts and change them often. Good luck with that – it’s hard enough trying to keep track of all this information while you’re alive. Even worse is trying to piece together an estate after a death (or incapacitation) occurs.

With an ever-expanding portion of our personal lives online, it is becoming increasingly difficult for executors. To make matters worse, in our efforts to go paperless, email statements are now routine (versus paper statements). This makes it even more difficult to “find” an elusive account while attempting to settle an estate. Even when people leave a list of financial accounts they often fail to list the passwords needed to access them. Without log-in information, survivors usually need to go to court for legal authority to gain access.

What can you do to address this problem? In my case my wife and a couple of other relatives know the location of my little black book. Or, you can store the information in a safety-deposit box or home safe – just make sure someone else is able to access these. You might also consider Legacy Locker (legacylocker.com) which lets you store log-in and password information for your online accounts and allows you to have it sent it to the appropriate people upon your death. It even lets you write and store letters to send to relatives. My little black book just might be outdated!

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