If the only person with access to your business’ online accounts dies, are you in trouble?

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

Too much power?

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote a feature story on this rarely discussed but important topic. Increasingly today, small businesses are embracing online, cloud-based accounts for everything from their banking to their payroll. And far too often, just one person can access those accounts, including their passwords. If that person should die, it could leave businesses without any way to access these accounts. Which could mean that your business wouldn't be able to cut checks for its workforce or pay its vendors.

The cloud isn’t fail-proof

The Wall Street Journal says that way too many small business owners have a false sense of security when it comes to using the cloud. They don't really worry about losing valuable files or data because, they assume, they're safely tucked away in the cloud. But the cloud isn't perfect. It, too, can be at risk of hackers. And since everything kept in the cloud needs passwords, getting at you important information can be challenging when the one person who knew all those passwords suddenly dies.


Of course, the simplest way for business owners to safeguard themselves is to be sure that several people know the passwords for these accounts. Owners could also compile a list of passwords and keep it safely stored in a safe. But what happens if online accounts are in an individual's name rather than the company's? Then there can 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 if the account holder dies. No one else, then, can get in. The answer here? Make sure your online accounts are in either the name of your company or the names of more than one employee.

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