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What happens to online accounts after the one person with access dies?

Business Technology | April 1, 2014

Only one key employee can access all of your small business’ crucial online accounts: your cloud-based payroll software, Twitter account, Facebook account and bank account. That’s fine. But what happens if that employee should die suddenly? Would you know the passwords to your company’s online bank account? How about that cloud-based payroll service? And if you did, would you legally be able to access the online accounts after this employee dies?

Too much power?

The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted this issue on its Web site. It might not seem like a difficulty that your business will suffer. But if your business does have online accounts that only one person has access, you could be tempting fate. If that person dies, are you able to access your online bank account in order to pay your vendors or cut a rent check to your landlord? How about your payroll software? Are you able to cut checks to your employees, most of whom want to get paid on their regular payday? And then there’s Twitter and Facebook. If your business relies on these tools to communicate with customers, you’ll need to know the passwords that give you access.

The cloud isn’t fail-proof

The Wall Street Journal story points to a larger issue: Many business owners mistakenly think that once they store their files and records in the cloud, these documents and folders are secure. Actually, they’re not. Hackers can still target them. And if no one can access this info just because a key employee has died? Then you and your business are really in trouble.


Of course, the most effective way for business owners to safeguard themselves is to make sure that several people know the passwords for these accounts. Owners can also compile a list of passwords and keep it securely stored in a safe. But what happens if online accounts are in an individual’s name rather than the company’s? Then there might be trouble. Privacy laws and policies might make it so that no one other than that specific individual can ever get into an account. The Wall Street Journal story points to the terms-of-service agreement for Yahoo! It says that ownership ends when the account holder dies. No one else, then, can get in. The answer here? Make certain your online accounts are in either the name of your business or the names of more than one employee.


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