TECHNOLOGY AND YOU – GARY KAYE–In The Boombox-This is not going to be a fun article. But it is necessary. The other day I got a note from an acquaintance whose office manager passed away from a sudden heart attack. In her computer lay critical office records. In her head were the passwords to various accounts, programs, and documents. And now she was gone, leaving a digital disaster behind her. It was even worse for her family. No online access to her brokerage accounts, her credit cards, her banking, and who knows how many other accounts in her name. It’s going to take her family weeks, if not months, to go through probate and put it all back together. Some of the digital materials, be it from her office or her personal life, may be virtually unrecoverable. This was not the first time I’d heard a story just like this. We are all vulnerable. And unless you are a hermit, the chances are you have connections and responsibilities that you (or your heirs) should take care of. For those who are the primary caregivers for someone else, putting together an ICE (In Case of Emergency) pack becomes even more important.
Last summer, before leaving on a lengthy overseas trip, I put together an ICE pack for my kids. It was a grim business. For medical emergencies, there was contact information for my doctors, lists of medications, and my living will. Then there were passwords and secret questions for bank accounts, credit cards, brokerage accounts. Where to find the will. Where to find the key to the safe deposit box. How to access the life insurance policy. Where to find the cemetery deeds. A list of friends and relatives who should be notified if the worst happens. Preparing for the inevitable is both grim and complex. And there’s more. Contact information for the website hosting accounts, passwords for the social networks (I still get notes from Facebook to wish a couple of deceased friends happy birthday).
Obviously if you have primary responsibility for the care of someone else, you need to prepare an ICE pack for them as well. And if your loved one is in an institution, you need to make arrangements in the event one day you just don’t call in, or show up. What are the contingencies for taking care of that loved one? Not only the notifications, but also the financial responsibility?
One way to prepare is to put all your passwords into a password storage management program. There are many on the market including KeePass, Roboform, LastPass, SplashID, and 1Password. Then you can turn over credentials for that account to someone you trust. LifeHacker has a really good article that tells you how to put everything together.
While the management of digital assets can be a difficult problem if a loved one dies, losing a key worker can be costly in an office. Especially in a small business, there are key players who may be the sole proprietor of specific projects, contacts, or procedures. How long might it take for your business to recover if one of those employees suddenly passed away or became incapcitated? Unlike passwords, there’s no simple solution to this. If you are a manager, consider developing a backup plan to make sure that you won’t be grounded by the loss of a key employee.
This subject matter is unpleasant. But sooner or later (hopefully way later), each of us will depart this world. And for our families and friends, it’s going to be a difficult time. We can reduce their stress by taking some simple steps before the time comes