Welcome to the new world, where your digital assets are a part of estate planning. Photographs, online documents and social media are all part of your estate and need to be included in your estate plan.
We are accustomed to thinking of estate plans as a means of distributing assets like houses, bank accounts, investment accounts and other tangible assets after death, but today one has to add digital assets to any estate plan. A recent article from WFXL.com, “What happens to digital lives after death?”, examines the steps for ensuring that your digital assets are handled properly, as well as more traditional assets. Remember that this step is necessary so that your loved ones don’t have to struggle with figuring out passwords, battling with social media platforms or trying to unlock your desktop computer to gain access to a treasure trove of family photos.
Taking some time now to make a record of this information and storing it on an external hard drive, can save time and money in the future. Trying to recover locked digital data, like pictures, can be extremely expensive, not to mention frustrating.
First, evaluate what you need and how much you would like to store. If it’s just keeping passwords safe, you might use a journal or a notebook. If you want to back up pictures or videos, try a flash drive or an external hard drive. Store the backups off-site in a security deposit box, or keep the files hosted via a reputable cloud service.
Be sure to reference that information in your will, but don’t list your passwords. The will is a public document after your death and will be visible to everyone. Just make mention of where the information is stored.
Social media, like other accounts, would continue to exist online, unless you have a plan established for it. Most companies have pages or ways to help dictate how your accounts are handled after your passing. However, not all social media sites have plans publicly in place for dealing with the situation of a family member's death. If not, contact the company directly.
Taking the time to organize this information in a usable manner now, will save your loved ones from a lot of stress and possibly the added costs of trying to unwind your digital life. It will give you some sense of control of what will happen to your online persona after you are gone.
Reference: WFXL.com (May 10, 2017) “What happens to digital lives after death?”