You Need A Digital Estate Plan
Learning how to organize your digital property is critical.
Estate planning has traditionally included a will or trust, beneficiary designations and power of attorney. When someone died, all important documents were often kept in a folder or in a safety deposit box and could be accessed by a family member or executor. But as the days of paper documentation have almost entirely faded and have been replaced with digital documents, organizing and centralizing information has not necessarily become common practice.
If you were to pass away suddenly or become incapacitated, would someone be able to easily access online bank statements, bills, account passwords and other important information? Most people don’t have all of their account logins and passwords written down for others to access, for obvious reasons. It is likely that loved ones may not even know about some of your websites with stored personal information or accounts, let alone the logins or passwords.
So how can a digital plan be created and benefit you and your family? There are steps everyone can start taking right now to ensure that accounts and websites are kept current, expenses are paid and investments are managed if life takes an unexpected turn. There are a few methods to transfer digital access upon death: written instructions, digital provider access, utilizing a password manager or a digital legacy service.
You can easily start by creating a written inventory of all websites, usernames and passwords stored on your devices. Include any websites or businesses that you may have linked to your credit card for automatic billing. Examples may include health clubs, magazines subscriptions or auto insurance. Also include in your written plan pin numbers, password reset questions, security answers and code phrases that allow access to accounts.You may choose to store information with the help of a document vault service or a password manager such as LastPass or KeePass to allow sharing information with your named executor in the future. It will also be helpful to print out your year-end statement from each of your accounts and save them in a file. This will help create a paper trail for your executor.
Social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn should be included in your digital information plan. You might want to specify whether you’d prefer to have your account functional or deleted. Some social media sites also now have functions and solutions you can select. For example, Facebook allows users to designate a profile executor who can access your account upon death. Gmail users can designate an inactive account manager who may access the account if it goes inactive for a specified period of time.
Digital assets include not only accounts but anything personal stored electronically such as photos, videos and other documents. There is another option called a digital legacy service that helps to transfer all digital information for a fee. Such services usually require the user’s death certificate to provide access to all of the stored information to the designated family member or executor.
It is important to emphasize that giving a person access your accounts is not the same as giving someone the authority to act on your behalf. It is essential for all of your end-of-life information, wishes and decisions to be specified clearly and documented for the person you designate. Your revocable trust, will or power of attorney should include your specifics about your digital information. Make it as simple as possible for your heirs, as dealing with death is an emotional, complex process in itself.
Bayntree Wealth Advisors, located in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona, provides comprehensive financial planning and wealth management. The Bayntree team specializes in all aspects of financial health, including retirement planning, risk management, investment advice, tax strategies, estate planning and insurance.
Bayntree does not provide specific legal or tax advice. Please consult with your tax advisor or legal professional for guidance with your individual situation.