While you can certainly plan and provide for your loved ones through a will and/or trust, your presence will still be missed. In today’s digital world, however, your digital identity may carry on—whether you want it to or not. It is much better for you to actually make decisions regarding your digital assets while you are alive rather than leaving it to chance.
Your digital identity can include such things as your Facebook page, your email account(s), your Instagram and Twitter accounts, your healthcare account, your bank accounts, your shopping accounts, your work account and the myriad of other online accounts you may have. Successful digital estate planning requires you to do the following:
- Compile a password list for all the accounts you would want taken care of after your death. There are password-management programs you could consider such as LastPass or 1Password, which can help you now in your day-to-day internet security as well as later for your loved ones. These programs are essentially databases where login information for each service or website you use is securely stored. Although the programs generate complex, secure passwords for each site, you are required to only remember one password—and the executor of your will can gain access to your digital life through that password. Some people will place this single password on a piece of paper, then in a safe deposit box.
- Next, you will want to make sure your digital executor is identified in your will. Your digital executor could be someone entirely different than the executor of your will. Explicit permission to log in to your websites, using the password(s) you provided should be included in your will, as the legal aspects can get a little murky.
- Facebook has a tool known as Legacy Contact which will allow a specific, designated person to gain access to your account after a specific period of time when you have not logged in, and some other sites have similar tools, however providing the passwords to a digital executor is a bit more organized.
- You will need to specify whether you want your digital profiles deleted the minute you are not there to take care of them, or whether you want them to live on.
Perhaps you have never really considered your Facebook account, your eBay account, your Kindle account or other online accounts as “assets,” but in reality they are, despite the fact that, according to Rocket Lawyer almost two-thirds of us have no idea what will happen to our digital assets when we die. Almost 85 percent of us acknowledge we have digital assets, however 39 percent of us who do have a will have not appointed a digital executor to manage those digital assets.
Many of us are highly invested in our online lives yet are totally unprepared when it comes to planning the future of those digital assets. Consider what might happen to your banking and other financial accounts if you were to die unexpectedly. Then think about your e-mail account—would you be comfortable with certain people having access to that account after your death? What about your photographs or other information stored in the Cloud? Are there specific loved ones you would want to have access to those photos or the information? To create a digital estate plan, take the following steps:
- Inventory all your digital assets;
- Include account numbers when necessary, although it may be advisable to create a separate list for account numbers to prevent a hacker from ever gaining access to all your digital information;
- Store the information in a very safe place;
- Name a digital executor as detailed above;
- Have your attorney include instructions for what should happen to your digital assets after your death in your will, and
- Consider whether you would like to post a final message, after your death, online. You might want to send a final message to your friends and family via Facebook or some other social media site, or record a video of your life story, having your digital executor post it to YouTube after your death.
Once you have thought about your digital estate planning, it is time to speak to an experienced Kettering estate planning attorney from Lovett & House who can take a look at your information, answer your questions, and advise you if more information is necessary. A knowledgeable Lovett & House estate planning attorney will ensure your digital life is in order, just like your “normal” estate planning documents such as your will and trust.