1Password as part of your emergency plan

I’ll be honest about this post: it isn’t really one of our most exciting 1Password life tips. It might even be a little sad. But it’s definitely one of our most important tips and down-the-road things to think about as a 1Password user.

Most people have a will, possibly power of attorney and advance directive paperwork. All this stuff usually lives in a secured location, whether it’s a safe deposit box, a safe in your house, or with a trusted third party. But what about all the accounts, identities, and other information we keep in 1Password? Who gets control over that in an emergency or when we’re gone? And how?

I wanted to write this post after having to answer this support email repeatedly in a relatively short period of time:

Hi Support! My (family member) passed away and they used 1Password for everything. Can you reset the master password so I can log in to [important sites] now that they are gone? Thanks!

It hurts me to have to tell people they are 100% out of luck if that Master Password isn’t recorded and stored in a safe place. I know all the things you have to deal with when you lose someone, so it makes me sad to be the person adding yet another thing to that list.

Ways to prepare

Some people simply include their Master Password in their personal papers. I used to keep a “cheat sheet” in an undisclosed location, a page of information about my computer, Apple ID, and other details, and I include my 1Password Master Password on that page.

You may have noticed I said “used to” keep a cheat sheet. Now I don’t have to do that anymore, thanks to a friend of mine, Mike Vardy. One of the most popular posts on his site is “1Password Emergency Kit”, and I’m really happy to say he just released a big update: 1Password Emergency Kit 2 (aka, The Legend of Curly’s Gold, as I like to call it). It’s a free PDF you can print and keep with your “papers”, allowing you to record and organize your 1Password Master Password, device passcodes, and other essential credentials for your loved ones. It gives you a bit more peace of mind, which is one of the pleasant benefits of using 1Password in the first place.

We have also heard from some of our faithful users who have their own unique solutions to these What If situations. One approach is from Rik Williams, who wrote in to ask about backups and how to restore from one, since he’d given a copy of the backup file to his trusted sources:

The three parties I use are my accountant, estate attorney, and financial advisor. I’ve instructed them that the three would need to convene along with any surviving family members and ALL agree that it’s appropriate to open the backup 1PW vault. I specified that this meeting should be documented in writing so that it would withstand legal review – I’m assuming the attorney would do this.

I’ve used Secure Notes to record everything I can think of in the if-I-die-scenario. This includes a short write-up on how to find the most current copy of my 1PW file from my cloud synch service. (BTW, I refer my survivors to the excellent support that AgileBits provide.)

Finally, my friend Judy MacDonald Johnston has covered some prudent thoughts along these lines in her TED talk. I recommend getting a beverage and watching her tell you about them. It’s not as sudden a situation, but still a lot of good tips, particularly if you’re someone who, like me, before Judy’s talk, hasn’t done much at all on this front.

Whichever route you take, it’s never too soon to spend a few minutes and organize your critical 1Password and other details for your loved ones, just in case. Take that Boy Scout oath and Be Prepared.

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