Check out this ChooseFI podcast episode 125 on the "Emergency Binder" which might be useful when you have a partner involved. Read on to find some useful tidbits anyway.
The complications of dying solo
My death as a solo person in a digital world is complicated by:
For the remainder of the discussion, I will use the following trusted individuals in my life for reference but they could be different for you (and maybe even not blood related):
The setup: an unused email address, a spreadsheet, and Swiss data inheritance secure cloud storage
In this blog, I am going to mention tools that I personally use. I am not currently compensated by any of these providers (nor have I been in the past).
I asked myself "if I went missing tomorrow, who is likely the first person to find out?" and the answer is my neighbors. Someone would call the police, they would send for a welfare check, and my neighbors in my apartment building would be asked about the last time they saw me. My neighbors have a key to my apartment. This kicks off the following chain of events:
The below screenshot shows my account with Data Inheritance activated, and 1 data beneficiary setup. This is my view, my beneficiary will only see files assigned to them once they have access. We will discuss the .txt file next.
The below is the Data Inheritance settings page after I filled in my details and those of my beneficiary. I did not have to provide any details of the "activator" -> I just received the code in a downloaded PDF (see Annex 1) which I can provide to whomever I like. If I later decide that I don't want that person to be the activator anymore, then I come back to the activator settings and generate a new code. Generating a new code (and PDF instruction) automatically invalidates any previous codes.
The unique feature that sold me on SecureSafe is the activation code keeps a segregation between the person receiving the information and the person informing of my death. So if Uncle 1 and I have a falling out, he can only activate my death but he won't receive any information because I did not set him up as a beneficary. And if Sibling 1 and I have a falling out, they cannot activate my death because I never gave them the code. It is of course always possible that Uncle 1 and Sibling 1 conspire together while I am still alive, which is an unlikely risk but also mitigated by the blocking period.
I only added 1 beneficary in my example for screenshot purposes but I recommend upgrading your free subscription to the paid version to add a 2nd beneficiary just to be safe.
So what data does the beneficary receive from SecureSafe? The one file I assigned to them -> a note pad file titled "Open This - On Death.txt"
This .txt file contains the email address and password I setup specifically for my death.
Now my relatives can access the email account to download the Excel sheet found inside. The Excel spreadsheet provides the treasure map to everything my relatives would need to know about my financial picture. The sheet has 2 tabs:
Sibling 1 is also listed as a co-owner of a checking account at a US bank where I store my USD $5,000 emergency savings. They can immediately withdraw this cash on my death as a co-owner. The account does not go to estate probate. Probate is a fancy word which means all assets of an individual are frozen on their death while courts decide how to distribute them, which can take months or years. Some assets by-pass probate which means they don't get caught up in the red tape of the courts.
Because I don't give out any of my login/password details, my relatives are losing the benefit of direct access to all of my financial records (e.g. copies of tax returns) which are stored on Google Drive. So I enabled the Google Inactive Account Settings at https://myaccount.google.com/u/2/inactive. You can follow the prompts on the page which informs you that if your account is inactive for 3 months, Google will make multiple attempts to contact you and if unsuccessful then will distribute access to the beneficiares that you assign. I added Uncle 1, Sibling 1, and Sibling 2 as beneficiaries. You can also choose which specific areas of your Google Account to grant access. So maybe I want them to access my Google Drive but not my Google Mail then I can toggle Drive on and Mail off. This feature on my account is not my primary way of distributing information because it only activates after a minimum of 3 months. Additionally, I have the SecureSafe Activation Code PDF saved on this drive in case anything goes wrong with Uncle 1 activating the data inheritance process but the 3 month waiting process with Google adds an extra layer of protection.
The keys to the treasure map are complete. My relatives will have to go through estate probate to actually access any probate assets that I own (e.g. sole named brokerage accounts, 401K, etc). but at least they know where and how to find it, and won't miss lost assets or unpaid bills/creditors.
A few other notes
TLDR: why make a death spreadsheet
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Unfinished human, currently v.5.0. Expecting at least 10 more versions. Aspiring adult.