Whatever else you leave in your will - don't forget your passwords

Dying without passing on passwords

Funeral directors have issued a stark warning: it's vital that everyone makes plans to pass on all the passwords for their accounts when they die - or they risk leaving their loved ones with a major headache.

See also: Why are we still telling people our passwords?

See also: Could you be buried by mistake?

See also: My Way tops funeral music charts


The average person has eight passwords: they ensure that everything from our bank account to our utility bills and even our music and photos are locked securely online. The trouble is that if we don't let our loved ones know our passwords, when we die, they will be locked out of all of it.

Judith Donovan, Chair of the Keep Me Posted campaign, says one of the great unintended consequences of online billing is that without the passwords, it becomes far harder to access accounts, which can make probate a "massive issue".

A study by Co-operative Funeral Care last year found that almost four out of five people who have tried to deal with an estate through online accounts have faced issues. Most organisations you deal with online will help once you have a death certificate, but this help may to be what you would ideally like. eBay and many email providers, for example, will not provide you with access or transfer the account: they will close it down. eBay will free up the cash, and some email providers will send you emails received and stored so far, but they will not grant ongoing access.

Other implications

If your other half is still living in your home, and you took care of all the bills, they will need the password in order to access the accounts. Without it they could be racking up debts they have no idea about.

It's not just the accounts we know about either. Without a list of everything you hold online - alongside the passwords - there's a real risk that savings accounts, pensions and investments may be overlooked altogether and lost forever.

Even sites that may not seem important can have financial implications. You may have hundreds of pounds in cashback or gambling accounts, you might have a balance on Paypal, or you may have live eBay purchases and sales - which the estate is legally liable for.

Personal items like photos and music that are stored online may also be lost forever, while social media cannot be updated, which can cause heartache and confusion for people who come across the account.

Then there are email accounts. Without access to those, you may miss vital communications from businesses, as well as family and friends.

What can you do?

The National Society of Allied and Funeral Directors is calling for people to take steps to make sure they pass on all the relevant passwords after their death. It suggests producing a list of passwords, put in a sealed envelope, and addressed to those people who will be managing your estate after you die. It's also important to list out the details of all your online accounts - to ensure that nothing is overlooked.

It may even be worth leaving a 'digital will', which spells out what you would like to happen to your online accounts - including social networking - and your emails.

Of course, once all of this is written down, it needs to be kept extremely carefully. If you don't have a safe at home, it's worth asking your solicitor to store it for you.



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MJ may have died over six years ago but his legacy still lives on. The King of Pop made $115m this year, but how? Cirque du Soleil in Vegas showcasing Michael Jackson One is one of the source's of Michael Jackson's cash flow but the Mijac Music catalogue and music sales also contribute.
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The Marley Beverage Company and House of Marley are just two of the companies bringing in the big bucks for reggae legend Bob Marley. Music sales are also obviously a huge contributor with more than 75 million albums sold so far. 
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Not to be confused with the award-winning film director of the same name, Steve McQueen was, at one point, one of the highest paid film stars in the world. Some of McQueen's most famous films include The Thomas Crown Affair, The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. His image is still used in adverts and commercials, bringing in $9 million worth of revenue. 

James Dean was a certified heartthrob and cultural icon of the 1950s who sadly died in a car accident at the age of just 24. His iconic image has been used throughout the last 60 years in a variety of ways all of which have been bringing in the cash. Most recently Dean's image was featured on a designer Dolce & Gabbana tshirt. 
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