Proper planning means planning for all the "lives" you lead, whether your life lived in the "flesh" or your life lived in "paper" (i.e., your accounts and records, to include contracts). In the brave new world of the current millenium, however, you live much of your life on the internet.
Your online life requires that information about your digital assets and accounts (especially passwords) must be included as part of your comprehensive estate plan. In turn, this information must be kept up-to-date and made available to your executors (also known as personal representatives), financial agents and trustees.
Likely, the digital age will get only more complex. Forbes recently addressed this subject of digital assets in the context of postmortem planning in an article titled “Protect Digital Assets After Your Death.”
From simple email accounts to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and then all the way to investment and banking sites, each of these aspects of your online life contains information that can be of immeasurable value economically or sentimentally.
For example, what about your iTunes music collection or Kindle book collection? On the other hand, if your digital information is not secured postmortem, then it could become a liability in terms of identity theft.
Do not expect any help at common law either. These are largely uncharted legal waters. In fact, internet companies themselves are only just now starting to address this issue.
Bottom line: without a comprehensive list of accounts and passwords, executors, trustees and even heirs might have a hard time accessing, continuing and/or closing your accounts.
Remember: When making your financial, tax and estate plans, don't go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
Reference: Kiplinger (May 2013) “Protect Digital Assets After Your Death”