Although the world has changed in such a way that the majority of our personal information and accounts are stored online, when we think of planning our estate for when we are gone, we don’t often think of our online assets.
So many things are secured by passwords, account names, and locked information, and you want your loved ones to have easy access to those things when you are gone to prevent unnecessary struggle.
The laws and legislation surrounding digital estate management are not keeping up with developing technology; however, there is plenty that you can do to ensure your beneficiaries have the information and access they need when you are gone.
Inventory Your Digital Assets
Make a list of all the digital accounts you have, including banking, credit cards, investments, social media, email, subscriptions, cloud services, utilities, contacts, online stores, personal websites/blogs, photo sharing, cryptocurrency, intellectual property, and all electronic devices.
Probably the most important place to start is your email accounts. Having access to your email allows for your family or others acting on your behalf to see if bills or notifications are coming in and need to be taken care of. Additionally, having email access can often serve as confirming credentials for other digital accounts and assets.
This can seem overwhelming, but many of these items may have the same passwords or information and will come together easily once you get started.
Set Up a Plan
The attorney you have hired to help handle your estate should be able to tell you what information you need to compile for your loved ones to access all the above information and how to store that sensitive data safely. Remember that this information should never go in your Will, as your Will is a public document that anyone can access once it is filed after your death.
Detail your wishes with your estate planner and explain what you wish to be done with each particular account. You can name separate executors for your bank accounts, email accounts, and online investments, or have the same person handle all of it.
Think about whether you want the person handling each of these particular assets or accounts to be your spouse or a child whom you trust implicitly, or if they will be in such a state of grief, that it might be easier to have a close friend handle these matters until they can be turned over to your family member while these discussions might not be easy to have, your family will appreciate having had them so they don’t have to deal with unnecessary conflict on top of your loss.
You can choose if you would like to save all this information in a written document that can be safely secured in a bank safe deposit box or lockbox in your home, or if you would like to hold it into a cloud-based storage system.
Digital estate planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you have an estate executor already in place, simply ask them if they are prepared and willing to help you take the additional necessary steps so you can be sure you have a plan for everything.