| By Lincoln Spector |
In an unpredictable world, careful estate planning helps those we leave behind.
But these plans often fail to account for what are becoming the primary repositories of our critical personal information: password-protected, digital files.
Needed information locked away for all time
A Windows Secrets reader wrote us recently with a grim problem.
- “Friend passed away last week. He had all his files on a thumb drive that is password-protected. No, he did not tell anyone the password, and so far his executrix has been unable to find one.”
Our reader’s difficulty brings up an important point: when you’re gone, someone will need access to your bank accounts, your papers, and possibly even your e-mail (necessary if they are to inform your contacts of your demise). If you keep this sort of information under strong digital locks (and you should), you’re going to have to leave someone the key.
Death isn’t the only worry. Nonfatal accidents or illnesses such as a stroke can render that vital information we carry in our brains inaccessible. So when making your contingency plans, be sure to include the digital component.
Leave a secure way into your personal info
So how do you maintain full security for your digital data and still leave a back door open for caretakers, executors, and/or beneficiaries?
“It would be the same answer if you were to buy a house safe,” says San Francisco attorney Michael Blacksburg (info), who specializes in estate planning. “Don’t be dumb enough to be the only person with the key or with the code.”