“Between Facebook, iTunes, email and digital banking and investment accounts, most of us lead pretty active lives online. Do you have a plan for what will happen to all of your passwords and accounts, when you pass away?”
It would be great if your parents would maintain a notebook with all of their online account passwords. If they don’t, get ready to spend a long time searching and holding up important estate and financial planning tasks. This is the message from Kiplinger in its article, “Leaving Your Digital Legacy.”
Most of us live at least some of our lives online. We have email and social media accounts, and we make purchases of digital books and music. We also pay our bills and conduct our banking online.
Unfortunately, much of our virtual property can’t be left to our heirs through a will. That’s because we don’t actually own them—we just have licenses to use those services. Even online accounts like email and social media sites aren’t ours either. Those providers control what happens when our contracts end at death.
Here’s what you can do to prepare to leave your digital legacies: make a list all your online accounts, which might include email accounts, financial accounts and utilities, banking accounts, retirement accounts, mortgages and insurance. Don’t forget any music, photos, or books stored online; any websites, blogs, or licensed domain names, merchants like eBay or Amazon and online communities or listservs where you’ve been active.
Consider what you’d want to have happen to those accounts. Would you want a loved one to have access to your music library or to your photos? What about your emails? Do you want your emails saved or deleted? The same thing is true with your social media accounts. They can be deleted or turned into “memorial” accounts, in some cases. On some sites, you can also have someone post a final status update after your death. With that in mind, you should consider nominating a “digital executor.”
You can allow your digital executor to know where you keep your passwords. Discuss your accounts with your digital executor and leave him or her detailed directions on where and how to find passwords, user names and other essential information.
You should also speak with your estate planning attorney about leaving virtual items you actually own, such as photographs that you took or purchased music, to people in your will. Be sure your executor has the access information so they can be downloaded. Another option is to “vault” your digital items with a company that will place all of your digital information (including passwords) on one online platform.
Your digital legacy is important, so be certain that your heirs can get to these assets.
Reference: Kiplinger (August 2017) “Leaving Your Digital Legacy”