Digital life after death: Do you have a password-sharing plan in place?

COVID-19 triggered many American Millennials to finally begin estate planning, according to new research, which found 72% of those respondents with wills created or updated them in the past year. Moreover, 34% of Millennials broached the subject of a digital handover with their parents in the past year.

digital handover

A report from 1Password and its partners, Trust & Will and Willful, explores the attitudes of 1,000 American Millennials, ages 25-40, toward end-of-life decisions, and storing and transferring digital assets before and after death.

“The pandemic has encouraged many of us to think more deeply about our mortality, but there’s a lot of work to be done to ensure a smooth handover of our estate–especially for newer digital platforms where we spend more and more of our time,” said Jeff Shiner, CEO of 1Password.

“Millennials especially are facing the brunt of these shifting pressures, as they’re balancing responsibilities for their own growing families while also caring for aging parents. Transition plans have long been a taboo topic, but it’s time to destigmatize these discussions and ensure our digital lives are in order so the responsibility doesn’t fall on others.”

A slow start to estate planning

68% of Millennials still don’t have a will, and just 38% of Millennials have provided clear guidance on how they’d like their digital accounts managed after they die. In fact, according to the report, descendants of those Millennials surveyed would lose access to an estimated average of $22,500 due to mismanaged wills.

Doomscrolling beyond the grave: 57% of American Millennials believe giving their executor access to their social media accounts is more important than access to their email, subscriptions, or shopping accounts (Amazon, Target, etc.). However, sharing credentials to banking/financial accounts still tops the list of priorities (67%).

End-of-life influencer: Celebrity deaths have a surprising impact on end-of-life planning. Behind COVID-19 (55%) and having a child (36%), the death of a celebrity or public figure was the third biggest trigger to writing a will (22%), even surpassing buying a house (17%).

The end-of-life elephant in the room

The survey found that, despite recent progress, 52% of respondents admitted to never talking to their parents about a digital handover – or can’t remember the conversation.

It’s not easy being in charge: 63% of respondents who have executed wills said it was harder than expected to access accounts of the deceased.

Millennials aren’t set up for success: 51% will be responsible for executing their parent’s wills, but only 36% of respondents know or have access to their parents’ passwords for their online accounts.

Millennial state of the password

Most Millennials keep their passwords to themselves in order to protect finances and their digital lives, following best practices. The irony is sharing passwords is increasingly critical to granting loved ones access to your digital legacy when you die.

Password preferences: When asked how they’ve shared passwords, 41% said via a written list, followed by 39% verbally and 25% digitally via email, cloud Google Docs, PDF, or a similar platform.

What tech? The old-fashioned ways of securing important documents still reigns; 81% of Millennials say they keep important paperwork, like their birth certificate, in a physical location such as a filing cabinet, safe or safe deposit box.

Never forget: 51% of respondents say that they currently store their passwords by memory, while 25% store their passwords on a piece of paper. Twenty percent of respondents use a password manager.

“It’s not surprising that the pandemic inspired Millennials to create or update an estate plan. However, more shockingly, the vast majority of Americans still don’t have a will or have access to their loved ones’ accounts,” said Cody Barbo, CEO of Trust & Will.

“As more Millennials enter the ‘Sandwich Generation’, acting as caregivers for both children and parents or grandparents, it is more important than ever to have open and honest discussions about end-of-life preferences and digital handovers. Creating an estate plan ensures that your family or friends are authorized to act on your behalf and in your best wishes.”

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