Most families prepare for the unthinkable with a will, so they can control what happens to their assets after they die. But protecting your digital life is also important.
Karen Prangley learned that lesson firsthand in 2009, when her father Greg Prangley suffered two devastating strokes.
“We didn’t know at what point we were going to lose my dad,” Prangley told CBS News.
Her 62-year-old father awoke from a coma after one week, but his memory was seriously impaired. When Prangley and her brother asked for the password to his Yahoo account, which he used to run his small business, he couldn’t remember it.
The entire business was tied to that account. Within a month, the company collapsed.
With some advance planning, situations like that can be prevented. CNET senior editor Dan Ackerman advises individuals to not only share their passwords with a trusted family member or friend, but also visit services like Google, Facebook and Twitter and set up so-called “legacy requests” to establish their account preferences in case of death.
You can also address issues related to your digital life directly in your will.
“As part of estate planning, you should set up a data executor in your will that has permission to access your account. Either give them the password ahead of time or make them an authorized user of your accounts,” Ackerman said.
Though the Prangley family contacted Yahoo for help to access their father’s account, the company denied them access. Yahoo did provide a password hint, but the family could not decode it.
Yahoo’s policy states that neither a Yahoo account nor any of its contents is transferable “even when the account owner is deceased.”
“We really learned it the hard way,” Karen Prangley said. Her father died in 2014. “Everything was lost and still to this day we can’t get into that Yahoo account,” she added.