Even if you are not tech savvy, you likely have a digital “estate” comprised of assets with financial and sentimental value. You probably also have plenty of personal information floating around out there in the digital universe. To protect these assets, and to ensure you don’t leave behind a massive digital mess for your loved ones to clean up, you should organize your online accounts and make sure they can be accessed by your loved ones if you become incapacitated and after you pass away.
Most states now have laws granting a decedent’s executor or family members the right to access and manage some of his or her digital assets. However, certain digital platforms do not allow such access, and others have extremely tight security, with two-factor password authentication, confirmation codes, and more. This makes organizing your digital accounts and keeping a record of how they can be accessed extremely important.
Here are some examples of the digital assets you might have:
- Email accounts, which may contain “conversation threads” revealing other digital accounts and assets
- E-Commerce accounts and Apps like Amazon, PayPal, Etsy, and Venmo
- Financial accounts and Apps like Scottrade, E*Trade, and Banks
- Retail accounts with usernames and passwords
- Social media accounts and Apps like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok
- Photo sharing accounts such as Instagram, Flickr, Shutterfly, and Snapfish
While some of your digital accounts might have been inactive for years, others probably play an important role in your current personal and financial affairs. To begin the organization process, ask yourself this: what would happen if you deleted each of your accounts right now? If the answer is “nothing much,” you probably don’t have to make that particular account part of your digital estate plan. For the others, you’ll want to make sure your executor or loved ones can access and manage the accounts if you become incapacitated and after you pass away. To accomplish that, you need to compile a list of the passwords, authentication codes, and other information necessary to access important accounts… and make sure your executor and family know where to find them. The one place you don’t want to provide this information is your last will and testament. Remember, a will is a public document, and anyone can see it if your estate is probated.