Many of us have a plan for our estate, which is focused on finances and physical assets. But while we create a plan for our money, home and property, there’s another aspect of your life that exists that no one talks about creating a plan for: your digital life.
This is beyond a will; you need this plan for your digital life in place in addition to a will. After you pass away, you still have an online existence. A digital footprint if you will. It’s time to consider how someone would be able to access this part of your life when you’re gone.
Your digital life may include usernames, profiles, social media profiles, images, blogs or blog posts, discussion boards, forums, any websites that you own or have created, any articles you’ve written or written about you… the list goes on.
This can seem really overwhelming, so we’ve broken it down into categories. Some of these categories may not apply to everyone, but they can help guide you if you’re organizing your digital life.
Many people deal with their finances online, whether it’s a banking app, investments, or Venmo. You’ll want to provide login information for these accounts and any information about recurring invoices or payments. What money is coming out and/or going into these accounts? Accounts like Paypal and Venmo not only have your bank account and credit card information stored, it may also contain balances that can easily be lost. You may also be using these accounts to pay for recurring bills like Netflix.
Household items include your streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, etc), security alarm company, computer information, and any digital backups. You’ll want someone to be able to cancel or transfer these accounts since they often have automatic, recurring payments. Your computer and related backup will also store a lot of the information related to your digital estate.
Your cell phone, internet services, and email are vital to your digital life. Often, these companies will ask for a passcode or a pin number. If that isn’t available to the person handling these assets, they won’t be able to change or close these accounts without a lot of unnecessary stress and hassle.
Giving someone access to your email will also help them see what paperless bills need to be taken care of and associated accounts to close. There are also things you can do to properly close an email account — here are instructions specifically for Gmail.
Depending on your personal situation, someone may still need to continue to pay household bills for you for some time after you’re done. This includes water and electricity, and/or they may need to close your cable account, among others. Leave any necessary account information, along with payment details such as what bank account the money comes from and when it needs to be paid.
Every place you’ve shopped online likely has your credit card information stored. You can start making a list of these places by looking at your email. Any email from a store is probably because you’ve purchased something from them.
Write usernames and passwords down to these stores so someone can remove your credit card information. Better yet, proactively cancel your account now if it is a store you no longer shop from. It’s not so rare for identity theft to happen after someone dies. You’ll also want to make a note of any automatic product subscriptions you have, so those can be canceled.
Provide login information for any of your online photo accounts, such as Shutterfly, Picasa, SnapFish, etc. It’s also a good idea to include information about what you would like to happen with these photos once you’re gone.
If you have social media profiles — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. — you’ll want to include login information and instructions for what you want to happen to these accounts in the future.
Facebook, for example, gives you an option of appointing someone to take care of your account or have a memorial page.
Providing someone access to your social media accounts can also be a good way of contacting people if there’s no other way.
This category includes:
- Medical records, such as MyChart
- Genealogy, such as Ancestry.com
- Library card and account
- Frequent flyer miles (these can be transferred)
- Password manager, such as LastPass
All of these are probably things you wouldn’t normally consider in an estate plan, but they are necessary to organize and manage your digital life.
If you’re new to creating this kind of plan, start with the most important category (such as finances).
You can make a spreadsheet or even just a hand-written list.
If you’d like to use our Emend spreadsheet, just send me an email and I’ll send it over!
Either way, you’ll want to have a backup of the document(s). Store printed copies in fire-proof safe, in safe deposit box, or in lawyer’s vault. Do not email it; instead, keep copies with your will. Make sure you don’t put passwords in your will because wills can become public documents.
Appoint an executor of your digital estate — it doesn’t have to be someone who is handling your estate — it should be someone you trust, who is digitally savvy.
This is not a once-and-done kind of thing. Passwords need regular updating and accounts change… Make it a goal to review it once each year.
If you’re interested in starting to organize your digital life, give us a call!