Estate planning has gotten a bit more complicated. Not only do you need a will and durable power of attorney, but today you need to make post-death plans for digital stuff, such as photos, email, a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
It makes sense to name someone — your legal executor or someone else you trust — to be your “digital executor” to manage your online accounts and digital property after your death.
The responsibility, as outlined by online estate-planning site Everplans, may include:
- Archiving personal files, photos, videos and other content you’ve created.
- Deleting files from your computer or other devices, or erasing devices’ hard drives.
- Maintaining certain online accounts, which may include paying for services to continue (such as web hosting services).
- Closing certain online accounts, such as social media accounts, subscription services or any accounts that are paid for (such as Amazon Prime).
- Transferring any transferable accounts to heirs.
- Collecting and transferring any money or usable credits to your heirs.
- Transferring any income-generating items (websites, blogs, affiliate accounts, etc.) to your heirs.
- Informing any online communities or online friends of your death.
Record your passwords
If you do nothing else, record all passwords so your executor or someone else you designate can manage or close your accounts after your death. Store the list in a mutually agreed and secure place. Don’t put passwords in your will, though, because that becomes a public document.
Passing on your passwords is essential. With many digital assets, privacy policies will prevent your survivors from accessing your accounts without them.
Spell out how you want each of your accounts handled. Do you want them destroyed? Do you want some of the photos, communication, creative material or business correspondence left to a member of the family?
Make plans for email and social media accounts
In general, you need to read the terms and conditions of each site you deal with to find out what can be done with your online presence after you die.
Some sites — such as Google — allow you to designate someone who can access your data in the event that your account goes inactive. According to Google:
Contacts will only receive notification once your account has been inactive for the specified amount of time — they will not receive any notification during setup.
Polices vary, so you need to check company by company. For more information, check out the following:
Paying for help
There’s a lively competition among online services that can help you prepare your estate and manage your digital assets. Depending on the complexity and value of your online assets, it may serve you to pay a fee for the expert help.
For example, Everplans offers a “secure digital archive of everything loved ones will need” if you are incapacitated or die.
Have you had to manage a digital legacy of someone who has died? Do you have any other suggestions for our readers? Share them on our Facebook page.
Kari Huus contributed to this post.