Get your ducks in a row

We’re all going some time. And even before we go, we can be in a situation where we can’t handle our own affairs for a time.

The polite thing to do is to make sure someone has access to the information they need to look after your digital (and real life) assets.

Write down your passwords?

Where do you store your passwords?

There is no single right answer to this, but there is a wrong answer. That answer is, “In my head.”

If something happens to you, your family or friends are going to need access to — at a minimum — your financial information.

People, please. Write down your passwords, and write down what they are for. A pile of scraps with just your passwords doesn’t cut it.

What should you keep track of, and how should you do it?

The Digital Passing website has an exhaustive Digital Audit Form here. It is thought-provoking.

I have a record of my credit cards and bank information as well as my online passwords. But I hadn’t done anything about voicemail codes until I looked at that form.

Keep your information in a secure place, but make sure someone who will need it knows where it is. Some of my customers keep their passwords in a safe deposit box or a home safe. Others make sure their lawyer or their children have access to it.

(I am not a lawyer. Check with a lawyer about the law.)

I’d also suggest making sure someone knows where your address book is, whether it’s a contact list on your phone or online, or an actual book.

However you decide to handle this, the second most important thing about it is to keep the information up to date. When you add, change, or delete something, make sure that information makes it to the master form and to any copies you have stashed.

What about social media?

When conducting your digital audit (or simply recording your user names and passwords) you included Facebook, right?

That’s good!

Facebook also lets you specify what happens to your account when you die. You can elect either to have a Memorialized account, or have your account deleted entirely. This Facebook help page explains each choice and how to choose.

Google’s Inactive Account Manager allows you to designate someone who can access your Gmail, Google Photos, and Docs in the event your account is inactive for a specified period of time. (You get to specify.) Read more about that here. Here’s a look at the setup page.

What about Dropbox, Twitter, and other online storage and services? You can get a good overview here.

Organize everything else, too

There are lots of ways to go about this, and something is better than nothing. But exhaustive is best. The most exhaustive way that I know of is Erik A. Dewey’s Big Book of Everything.

Dewey says: "People will know what accounts to cancel, have access to your email, know where important papers are kept, and otherwise streamline what is already a painful process."

The Big Book of Everything is free to download in PDF and Excel formats. Take an hour or so and start getting your information organized.

Take a few minutes to update every time something changes, and be sure to tell someone where to find the Big Book when they need it.


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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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