Almost all of us have heard of a will used to pass on assets after a person has died. But what about a digital will?
This type of legal document helps manage what happens to your digital assets when you pass away. Don’t think you have any digital assets? Almost everybody does.
If you’ve ever used the Internet, you likely have signed up for something. Like most people, you probably have a social media account. You might engage in online banking. Maybe you pay bills online.
Email addresses, websites, photos, documents, financial accounts. What will happen to these elements after your death? Do you want them to continue to live on, or would you prefer someone close them or manage them in a specific way?
This is where a digital will comes in. This document is similar to a traditional will, in which an executor is appointed to handle your final wishes regarding your online presence. You can have the executor of your Last Will and Testament handle this or appoint someone who is more tech-savvy.
Digital wills are not the norm, quite yet, but if you think the idea of your Facebook page still being active one year after your death is undesirable, you’ll definitely want to consider one. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask your lawyer to help you create a digital will. Here are some steps to help you get started.
Creating a Digital Will
If you’re interested in creating a digital will, get a lawyer involved. Let your estate planning attorney know your wishes to close down accounts upon death. He or she will let you know the steps involved. The first step involves appointing an executor.
A right choice is a tech-savvy person in your life that you trust completely with your digital life. Depending on your online presence, closing all your accounts may take some time and effort. Find a hard-working person who is willing to take on this task.
Be clear about how each of your accounts should be handled. Should your Facebook page be memorialized or deleted altogether? Should your executor respond to unread email messages or delete your account immediately? Do you own a website? Should the executor post a message upon your death explaining the situation?
Make sure all of your accounts are included. Your digital will should include passwords for all of your devices (PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones). Bank PINs and account numbers, memberships, subscriptions, and Wi-Fi passwords should be included. Your executor should also have access to your medical information. A photocopy of your insurance card would be helpful.
Understand that most websites have privacy policies and won’t allow a third party to access your account. If they do, the process is lengthy and time-consuming. Therefore, it’s important to leave login information for all of your accounts. Include usernames, passwords, and any answers to security questions. This will make it much easier for the executor to make any changes without issues.
Grant the executor a copy of your death certificate. If problems do arise when it comes to cleaning up your online presence, having a death certificate readily available will make things easier for the executor.
Using a Password Manager
While a piece of paper with login information for all your accounts may suffice, there are other options that can help. Password managers act as digital vaults, storing all your online passwords and surrendering access to the person you specify. Legacy Locker allows you to gather all your online assets and login information. You can then assign verifiers – those you trust to handle your accounts. Once your verifiers confirm their identities, they are given access to your accounts.
SecureSafe works in a similar fashion, but also offers 10MB of free storage. LastPass records all the usernames and passwords for your digital accounts. You then assign an Emergency Access Contact who will take over the accounts upon your death.
These options are available for free with limitations. There are limits to how many passwords can be stored before incurring a fee.
Your death – especially if it’s untimely – will no doubt leave loved ones grieving for quite some time. During this time, they will be focusing on your physical assets. They may not be thinking about your online accounts and social media presence. However, if you typically paid bills online and suddenly that stopped, your family could be dealing with a lot of hassles.
The mortgage wouldn’t get paid. The phone and electricity might get turned off. This might not be a big deal if you lived alone, but, for those with spouses and children at home, this could be an inconvenience. Therefore, having a digital will allows access to your accounts so bills can get paid and the other aspects of your digital life can be taken care of as you please.
While you may not want to talk about death, planning your future is very important, as it makes things easier for family members once the time comes. Everybody can benefit from a digital will. It’s best to not have your personal life available online to others after you die. The sooner you can have an executor remove your personal information, the less risk there will be of someone using your information to engage in fraud and other crimes. It’s a personal and safety issue you should definitely consider when it comes time to focus on estate planning.
This wonderful post was written by Gary Simmons. Gary is a Certified Senior Advisor and Case Manager for A Hand to Hold. He strives to make the home care experience a better one for seniors and their families. Gary Lives in Atlanta, GA with his family and loves taking Disney vacations with them.