Call me morbid, but over the weekend I started thinking about what would happen if I died suddenly. Not the big stuff like who would have custody of my son – that’s already taken care of – but the things that aren’t important enough to be addressed in a will. Specifically, I thought about all my online accounts. What would I want to happen to things like my Facebook account, this blog, and my bills (all of which are online)? And who would I trust to do it?
Last night I sat down to make a list of all my important online accounts. I was kind of shocked to see how many there are. Over the years, I’ve signed up for a blue million services, websites, and memberships. Some of them don’t matter – I don’t really care what happens to my Flickr stream, for example. I won’t even bother discussing all the blog-related and social media accounts because there are so many. But I was dumbfounded by the number of accounts related to my finances:
- 3 checking accounts
- 5 savings accounts
- 6 credit cards
- Car loan
- Student loans
- Roth IRA
- Traditional IRA
- Utilities (electric, gas)
- Health insurance
- Life insurance
- Car insurance
I spent about 3 hours typing out a new list of all those accounts, including the account number, my username and password, when the bill is due, how it’s usually paid, etc. I did the same for my cousin’s bills since I’m handling them while he’s gone to basic training. Finally, I made a list of everything related to blogging and freelancing, along with instructions for where to send the info if something happens to me.
Each list was saved as an encrypted file, then placed in a folder on my hard drive. I also backed it up to an external drive and emailed copies to myself, just in case.
So Who Gets All This Info?
It was pretty easy to decide who I want taking care of my information – my parents. My mom turns into an ostrich during crisis situations, but my dad handles things the way I do. I know he’ll take care of it, but I also want my mom to be involved in case something weird happens and my dad and I die at the same time.
For now, I’ve kept the lists in the places I mentioned before. But my dad will know where to find them, as well as the passwords to my computer and the files. The blog information will be sent to a fellow blogger, who I know will follow my instructions exactly and make sure my blogs and social media accounts are closed out or transferred appropriately.
Why Should You Care?
I think sometimes we take our easy access to technology for granted. When I was a kid, it was easy to track down a person’s information if they died – you just looked at the stack of mail everyone seemed to keep on a desk or coffee table. Maybe you waited a month or so for other bills to come in, or went down to the local bank branch to settle the person’s accounts. That was pretty much it.
Today, things are completely different. I don’t get anything in the mail but junk – I’ve moved to a completely paperless system (except for my stupid water bill, which is a whole other rant). My bills are deducted from my checking account automatically. Most of my bank accounts are through online banks that don’t even have branches. If I die tomorrow, it could prove very difficult for someone to make sense of what I have and how to access it.
No one wants to think about dying, but I’m sure you don’t want to leave your loved ones with a huge jigsaw puzzle to solve if the worst happens. I want to encourage all of you to get your financial and other accounts organized and in the hands of someone who’s capable of taking over in an emergency.
Are you prepared for the worst? How hard would it be for friends or family to make sense of your accounts if you died unexpectedly? Have you designated someone to take care of all your stuff?