Leaving Behind Your Logins: More Than Half of Internet Users Don’t Plan for the Unexpected [Study]

All About Cookies surveyed internet users to find out how many people actually make a plan for their online accounts after their death.
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You already know having a will is important. Personal assets like homes, cars, jewelry, and other physical items need a place to go after you’re gone.

But what about your digital assets?

Key passwords, crypto wallets, investment portfolios, mobile banking passcodes, and even social media credentials also need a place to go when you pass on. In a lot of cases, these accounts may be even more important than some physical assets.

But how many people actually have a plan for their digital assets?

Our team at All About Cookies surveyed 1,000 US adults on the topic and found out how prepared Americans are to pass on their digital inheritances, how many people have even considered it, and even how much value Americans are leaving unprotected in the worst-case scenarios.

In this study
Key findings
What digital assets do internet users make arrangements for?
How people store digital assets
Who we share accounts with
Leaving behind a mess
What gets left behind?
Making plans to remember your legacy
Tips for digital asset planning
Methodology

Key findings

  • 67% of internet users have a plan in place to share login or password information for their banking accounts in the event they pass away, but not necessarily in a formal will.
  • Of the 65% of people who had a will, only 24% included any online account information.
  • Only 30% of people in relationships say their partner could easily access their online accounts in the event they passed away.
  • 50% of married people have money in online accounts their spouse doesn’t know about. The median value of these accounts is $8,000.

What digital assets do internet users make arrangements for?

Almost everyone understands the need to dictate where their belongings will go once they’re gone. Social media has been around long enough for us to see how a page is archived when a person passes, but how many people have accounted for other tech assets?

Our research shows around 1 in 3 has no plans at all.

Chart showing how many people have a plan to pass on certain logins

Banking accounts and apps are the highest on the list, with 67% of respondents planning to pass those on. Considering most adults have a bank account, it still means 1 in 3 Americans are leaving their banking info unspoken for.

The least planned for accounts are airline and hotel rewards at 31%, which could mean a lot of value is left on the table. That said, they aren’t essential accounts, so it’s not surprising they’d be forgotten.

57% of respondents planned to pass on credentials for bills or utilities. This is especially important for couples or people who share the same living space. Imagine the red tape your friend or loved one would have to go through to make sure the electricity stays on or they aren’t locked out of the Wi-Fi router while also dealing with your loss.

Personal websites and business accounts were also low, with just 35% and 31% of respondents having made plans for these assets, respectively. Blogs and merchant websites have the potential to generate a ton of revenue and should be treated the same as a physical business.

Finally, digital estate accounts like email, phone, computer passwords, and even password managers should all be left with an heir in mind. All of these accounts will be necessary to settle someone’s estate. The fact that 61% or less of people have a plan for these could leave many grieving families in the lurch.

How people store digital assets

While the vast majority of people have digital assets, we asked how the passwords tend to be stored. Respondents could select multiple options.

Chart showing how Americans store passwords

A whopping 39% of people store their digital information in their heads. That tells us two things:

  1. Almost 40% of Americans have no way of sharing important information in case of emergency or incapacitation.
  2. 39% of people are likely using very simple, hackable passwords because they’re easy to remember.

Obituaries are public, and there’s nothing stopping a hacker from digitally stalking the deceased. It’s completely plausible that a hacker could use the information in an obituary to snag stolen credentials on the dark web and hack these accounts before the family has a chance to figure them out. The simpler your password is, the easier they can get access to your accounts.

Though it’s good to see that the majority of people are storing at least some of their passwords digitally, it’s important to understand if they’re simply using their browser’s autofill feature, or actually subscribed to a highly encrypted password manager.

On top of having extra security, some of the best password managers have a digital heir feature, which means your information can be automatically sent to your designated contact without them having to wait for wills, probates, or any other legal process to execute.

Who we share accounts with

42% of people share login credentials with a spouse, while only 13% have shared with a parent and 8% with a friend. Considering all the singles and roommate situations out there, this low number means that the majority of non-married people haven’t planned ahead.

Chart showing who people share passwords with

Even more concerning, 34% of people haven’t shared their digital assets with anyone. The future of these accounts and all the assets held within them are jeopardized if there’s no plan for them after you’re gone.

Even if there isn’t a single person you want to share your data with right now, another option is sharing them with an attorney or estate executor, but only 3% of respondents say they’d actually done that.

Depending on the state, assets will usually be passed to spouses (but not long-term partners) and children. If no heirs are identified by the state, the government can actually take everything you own. This is why designating what goes where and to whom is such an important step to take.

Chart showing how many people share logins in their will

Only 24% of respondents mentioned their online accounts in a will.

While 41% had a will but didn’t mention online accounts, 35% didn’t have anything. With 3 in 4 Americans not having any designation as to where their digital inheritance will pass, we’re wondering what accounts may likely disappear or live untouched.

Leaving behind a mess

Most people’s closest confidants are their significant others, so we asked people in relationships how easy they’ve made it for their partners to access their accounts.

Chart showing how hard it will be for spouses to find important digital information

46% of people said that their loved one would be able to figure it out eventually. Remember, however, that grief works differently for everyone, and spending a week or two hunting for the bank password could leave someone financially strapped while also dealing with funeral plans, costs, and the emotional toll of it all.

For the 24% of respondents who said it would be somewhat or very difficult for heirs to access accounts, loved ones will likely have to deal with tech companies or corporations and go through mountains of red tape to recover that information.

What gets left behind?

Do you have an account with funds that your loved ones aren’t aware of at all?

Are you into sports betting? What about online games where you win real money? Do you dabble in crypto or online investment accounts? What would happen to all of those if you suddenly stopped logging in?

When asked, exactly half (50%) of respondents said they had accounts of monetary value that their partners didn’t know about.

Chart showing how much money people may lose

Respondents had a median value of $8,000 in online assets that would either get lost or delayed on its way to their heirs. In fact, there’s a good chance those funds would never see their intended recipients. That’s more than just a chunk of change!

Making plans to remember your legacy

Digital legacy planning isn’t as difficult as you might think. Apple iCloud Keychain users have the ability to designate an heir directly from their phones, while many password managers provide legacy contact or digital will features.

The cost of digital planning tools like password managers is significantly lower than traditional estate planning, so you won’t need to worry about incurring a large bill to protect your loved ones. All it takes is a little time and organization to provide your heirs with this essential plan.

Tips for digital asset planning

If you aren’t sure where to start, there are plenty of resources available to help you understand what you need depending on your life stage.

  • It’s never too late to start. For older adults, The Best Password Managers For Seniors breaks down different password managers that can organize online credentials, store important digital documents, secure medical records, and even assign digital heirs.
  • No matter your age, you need a plan. The Best Password Managers are useful for singles and families and can have more features than just password retention.
  • Get a service you’ll actually use. If you already use a password manager, but it doesn’t include digital estate management or emergency contact, learn How To Move Your Passwords to a New Password Manager so your accounts aren’t left in online limbo.

Methodology

All About Cookies surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults above the age of 18. Responses were collected in May 2024.

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Author Details
Mary is a seasoned cybersecurity writer with over seven years of experience. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University, she educates audiences on scams, antivirus software, and more. Her passion lies in educating audiences on helpful ways to protect their data.