To continue in our series about Estate Planning, today I want to talk about your digital legacy. This topic is part of the reason we created our estate organizer in the first place. Ten to twenty years ago when someone passed, all their loved ones had to do was collect the mail for a few months and they had all they needed in order to close out an estate. Today is vastly different in that we tend to keep the “keys” to the most crucial information in our heads – namely our passwords.
I am not only referring to the institutions where you pay bills or where your money is held. I am talking about taking inventory of your entire digital life. While this includes your bank accounts and email it also encompasses your social media presence. In our estate organizer we deem this your “network.” Let’s break it down a little further.
Your loved ones, especially those who are charged with carrying out the duties associated with your estate (usually your executor), must have access, at a minimum to your computer and phone. Additionally, we recommend you use a password manager to store your passwords. Many of the password managers out there today allow you to designate an emergency contact that can access your account if you are incapacitated or pass away.
The My Network section of our digital organizer provides a lengthy guided list where you can also store this information. Our organizer is on a USB drive so you can conveniently update the information as it changes. Of course, an old fashioned pen and paper list will work as well, however, we highly recommend a hard copy list or our USB drive be stored in a secure location for obvious reasons.
In our last estate planning post we discussed how to gather information about your bills and wealth. In this next phase we suggest gathering the online log in information for those institutions. Keep a running list of usernames and passwords along with any security question answers. While it is environmentally friendly to go paperless, remember your executor needs to know what accounts you have and how to access them.
The user name and password information should not stop at bank accounts but extend to investment accounts, credit cards and insurance policies. Check into reoccurring payments that are coming from your bank account or credit cards; usually, these places have online log in information to add to your running list. Think utilities, loans, tuition and subscriptions such as Netflix. With a comprehensive list you can take the guess work out of closing out these accounts.
Social Media and Digital Assets
That selfie you snapped today or that quote you shared a year ago may have just been posted on your Facebook page in good fun but in the event of your passing these glimpses into your life can become cherished by your loved ones. As of this post each social media platform has its own policy in the event of a death. Some allow accounts to be memorialized while others only allow a family member to deactivate the account. Consider researching the sites you use and designating what you would like to be done with your social media presence after your death.
If you have intellectual property stored on your computer or online, you should add these to your list of passwords for your executor to access. This includes manuscripts, original music and ordinary intellectual property such as personal photographs. Discuss with your loved ones what you want to happen to these things once you pass.
Is your head spinning yet? The extent to which we live our lives online continues to increase. If you are confused or do not know where to start in the process of taking inventory of your digital network, ask for a copy of our estate organizer and begin the journey to peace of mind in regards to the estate you will leave behind.
Until next time, cheers!