Digital Estate Planning: How to Prepare Digital Accounts for the End of Life

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 21, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Living in the 21st century has its perks, including the wealth of information on the internet. But what happens to your digital accounts and online assets upon the end of life? To answer this question, you need to set up a digital estate plan.

Digital assets don't simply include your email accounts, social media profiles and blogs. They also include any websites you've published (and potentially monetized), and most importantly any e-commerce websites, or digital wallets, where you may actually have real dollars invested. Also, don't forget about your digital music, photo, and video libraries.

Below are a few tips to help you develop your digital estate plan.

Pick Someone You Trust With Your Life and Your Money

When you develop your digital estate plan, the first thing you may want to do is decide who you would want to be your executor. An executor of an estate is the person who is responsible for carrying out (executing) your instructions. The person you select to execute your digital estate plan should be someone you trust to properly preserve your legacy online. You should feel confident that your executor won't post something that would embarrass you, or write a tell-all book about your secret life as a fast-food connoisseur, unless that's what you want.

Also, you need to pick someone with enough technological know-how to handle all your digital assets. Your executor should be familiar with, or savvy enough to become familiar with, your digital assets.

List Everything, Not Just Social Media

When getting your digital estate plan ready, the most cumbersome part is listing out every single digital and online username and password that you have. Social media accounts may have the most public presence, but including your information for services like Apple's iTunes, AppStore, and iCloud, or web-services like Dropbox is also important. Additionally, for avid gamers, don't forget to include your game logins, especially for games that you have credit on, such as the new fantasy sports sites that let players compete for real money. 

It's important not to forget the login info for the actual hardware too, like your computer, tablet, laptop, smartphone or any other piece of hardware that has a security code or password.

Typically, bank accounts are handled by the regular executor of your will or estate, and this will usually include investment and retirement accounts as well. If you have an account with an online-only bank, you will likely want to include that information in your regular will or estate plan rather than your digital estate plan. However, including your information for online billing portals for your credit card, phone, car, insurance and utilities can be very helpful.

Plan What You Want to Happen

After you know who you want to execute your plan, and you have all your account information gathered, you need to write up specific instructions on what you want to happen with your digital assets and accounts. Do you want your Facebook page to be converted to an in-memoriam page, or do you want it deleted? Do you want a script set up to Tweet out a daily reminder to your followers that you have died? Do you want your browser history, every email you ever sent, or your hard drive completely deleted?

Whatever it is you want to happen needs be be explained for each account. If your executor is not very savvy, consider including more detailed instructions.

Where to Put the Info

Websites and apps have been developed that will allow you to store all your usernames and passwords for all your different accounts. However as digital estate planning is relatively new, there is no right way, quite yet, to save your digital estate plan. Some people provide the information to the same attorney that holds their will. Some people feel safer leaving it in their safe deposit box or in a safe in their own home.

The one consensus is that the information should be kept somewhere safe as it will contain usernames and passwords (or instructions on where to find them if you have an app for that) that you do not want to lose or have stolen.

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