You’ve probably already done your estate planning. You have a will, maybe some trust documents, a power of attorney. Your whole life is organized and documented so that someone else can take care of things if you become incapacitated or pass away.
But what about your digital life? What would happen to all of those online accounts and your personal information if something happened to you? Would your loved ones be able to access them? Would they even know what to look for?
Nowadays, so much of our lives take place or are managed online. It is important for your family to have the means to access and wrap up your digital life in order to protect you from ongoing subscriptions, identity theft, and fraud. If you’re ready to start your digital estate planning, here’s what you need to do:
1. Make A List
First, start by making a list of every digital account that you have. You probably won’t be able to do this all at one time, because there are so many and some are very infrequently used. Once you’ve made your initial list, you will continue to remember accounts to add while you’re in the shower or walking the dog, etc.
Don’t worry if you know you’re missing some accounts that you can’t think of. You can always add them in later. To help you out, we’ve made a checklist of the accounts you may have that you can download here.
For each account, you need to list any information that someone would need to access and manage the account. This includes:
- Sign in URL
- Account number
- Credit card information associated with the account
Make sure to make note of anything that automatically renews, like domain hosting, medications, or Netflix. If you use a password manager, then that is the only username and password you need to list. However, you still need to list out all of your accounts so you can leave instructions for how to handle them when you are gone.
2. Write A Plan
What do you want to be done with the different parts of your digital life? Some accounts you will simply want deleted. But others, such as photo sharing sites, you may want archived and saved. Many people’s Facebook pages are left active after they pass away as a memorial to them and a place where family and friends can grieve. Some things, like domain names, you may want to pass on to family, friends, or business colleagues. It is especially important to have a plan for anything of monetary value. Whether you want it shut down, sold, or passed on, it won’t happen unless you have it down in writing.
It is important to write out exactly what you want to be done with every aspect of your digital life so that your wishes can be followed. Don’t assume your loved ones know what you want. Take the guesswork out of their time of loss and write a plan.
3. Name An Executor
You need to choose someone to follow your plan and make your wishes a reality. Your digital executor is different than the executor of your estate and is not legally binding. In some states, you may be able to name them in your will, though.
Choose someone that is comfortable with technology and able to easily navigate the internet. Someone from a younger generation may be a better option than your spouse.
4. Protect The Information
This list that you made contains very valuable information, and it could create a big mess for you if it gets into the wrong hands. You need to store it in a secure, yet accessible, location. You can store it with an attorney, with an online storage provider, or in a locked file cabinet or safe. Make sure at least two trustworthy people know where it is stored and have the ability to access it. One of these people should be your digital executor.
How We Can Help
It’s hard to think about our own mortality, but it is very important. Things will be hard enough on your loved ones if you are incapacitated or gone. You don’t want them stressing out over accessing your online accounts as well.
If all of this seems overwhelming to you, you’re not alone. That’s why so many people avoid estate planning and leave their families with a mess. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We are here to help. At ClearVista Financial, we can help you with every aspect of your estate planning, from leaving an inheritance to passing on an online business. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512-381-1510 to set up a complimentary consultation today. We can answer any question you may have and help you with your digital estate plan.
Mark Trice is an independent financial advisor with nearly a decade of experience in the industry. As the founder of ClearVista Financial, his mission is to help people find financial balance in their lives and to spend life well. Along with providing financial planning and retirement planning to pre-retirees and 401(k) plan participants, he is also an educator. He currently holds the designation of a Certified Financial Educator® through the Heartland Institute of Financial Education. Mark has offices in Austin, Brownwood, Temple, and Waco, Texas. Along with serving clients in Texas, he also works with individuals in California and Virginia. To learn more, visit www.clearvistafinancial.com or connect with Mark on LinkedIn.