In the first article of “Preserving Your Digital Legacy” I discussed developing a plan and taking inventory of your digital assets. I know it wasn’t a homework assignment, but have you started this journey? Maybe once we’re through the entire plan it will give you a better idea and the motivation to get started, if you haven’t already.
Part 2: Deciding what to do
How will your executor (or family) have access to your digital assets, and what do you want done with those assets? You may have digital copies of vital records, bills, email or passwords to social media accounts stored on your computer or another device. Are any of them tied to 401k or social security benefits?
Why should we care though? Think about when a parent or a close relative or friend had passed, or they were sick in the hospital and you had to help out. In the past we may have just had to deal with the physical items which can be daunting enough. Image if we had to also deal with trying to access another person’s accounts to pay their bills, keep everyone updated on their Facebook account, or in worse case scenarios turn off the electricity, etc. What if all their family history or vital records were stored on a computer that you didn’t have access to? Now, jump forward. Put yourself in the shoes of whomever is going to be left with your mess.
Maybe you included in your will that you want your Executor to have access to all of your accounts. In a will, this is generally a very broad statement in that passwords change and you have created new accounts or deleted obsolete ones. So, how would your Executor gain access to these accounts? And do they know what to do what that information?
So, how do you communicate your wishes? You could create a very detailed list, if you have a complex digital estate. Or, you could simply write a letter. And, within that letter categorize your assets and to whom you want to handle them.
- Credit Cards: Sally needs to handle paying off my credit card debt and close accounts
- Utilities: Tim needs to have the utilities transferred to his name
- Shopping accounts: Sally needs to have them all closed
- Social Media: I want to have my Facebook account memorialized
- Google Photos, I want to keep active and shared with family members
These are just a few examples of what you could write in your “letter”.
To sum it up, no matter what type of digital asset collection you have, you need to inventory, organize and document what you have. Write as simple as a letter to your executor and state what you wish to have done. Include this as part of your estate plan.