Passwords and Parents

We have seen a few cases recently in which a parent or elderly family member has passed away, or just lost access to their various accounts and passwords, and their adult children or other family members have been unable to retrieve access to these accounts. 

I have written at length before about how difficult it can be to recover passwords for accounts belonging to large multi-national companies whose focus is on security, and not on customer service. Has anyone tried to directly contact Google lately? The only way to guarantee ongoing access is to ensure that data recovery is set up and available to anyone who might need to access an account. If you lose your password to your Microsoft account, or your email password, or your Facebook login etc, password recovery is the only option. 

Many times we have seen a scenario in which a parent who has passed away has not set up password recovery at all, or has not provided those details to their adult children. Having password recovery linked to a phone which is long gone or is also locked behind an unknown password is no help. Similarly, having password recovery for two email addresses linked to one another, where surviving family members have no access to either will not solve the problem.

We also often see a situation in which an elderly spouse passes away, and the remaining spouse has had barely any input into the day-to-day business of emails or other accounts. In this case it can be very difficult for the remaining spouse to gain access to shared accounts. We've even seen people left with computers or tablets they can't access, potentially containing important information and photos of their lost loved one. 

If you are proactively working on wills or planning for the later stages of life for either yourself or a family member, I would encourage you to include accounts and passwords in the list. Ideally, accounts should have two recovery options, another email and a current mobile number, especially those accounts belonging to companies who you can't ring up for a password reset.