You know by now that it’s incredibly important to create an estate plan to be executed in the event that you pass away unexpectedly.
This has been a best practice, honed and perfected, by estate planning attorneys (like us) for decades.
Now, in our new tech-augmented lifestyles, it’s also increasingly important to create a plan for managing your digital assets after you’ve passed away or if you become incapacitated.
It isn’t something that’s pleasant to think about.
But imagine your loved one(s) attempting to comb through your digital presence after you’re gone.
It’s likely they’ll run into security roadblock after roadblock, with each account or website requiring them to prove the pain of your loss over and over again in order to gain access to manage them.
It can be heartbreaking for your bereaved.
Use these tips for managing digital assets to help ensure a smoother – and less painful – transition for your loved one(s) or to help a loved one of your own prepare for the unexpected.
#1: Determine a Digital Executor
Just as you would choose an executor to manage your estate in the event you pass away, choose a ‘digital executor,’ who will manage your digital assets after you’ve passed or become incapacitated.
To simplify the process, consider that this person may ideally be the same person as your estate’s executor. He or she will have the tools and required passwords to be able to login to your accounts, retrieve your digital assets, and shut them down when necessary.
Consider drafting and signing a statement that authorizes your digital executor to access your digital accounts after you’ve passed. He or she will be able to use this statement to prove his or her right to manage your accounts. Your estate planning attorney can help you do this. Include an executed version of this document with your will and other estate documents.
#2: Create a Digital Vault
Creating a digital vault to be used by your digital executor is helpful to ensure all of your important digital assets are managed and shut down properly after you’ve passed away. This tool functions as a secure repository of digital account, site, and password information a loved one can access easily when needed.
Your digital vault doesn’t have to be fancy, though there are a few subscription services available to help you securely store the info for your email, banking accounts, bill accounts, social media accounts, work accounts, and others.
Creating a digital vault can also be as simple as completing a digital asset worksheet – like this one or a similar version you create – to organize and compile your digital accounts and offer a clear picture of your virtual assets.
If you opt to use the worksheet method, be sure to save a hardcopy – preferably with your will and other estate documents – and a soft copy on a secure drive on your computer or in a cloud service.
You might also consider storing your passwords in a secure password manager tool, such as LastPass, 1Password, or Google Password Manager. Include this login and necessary details in your digital asset worksheet or vault.
#3: Set Up Legacy Contacts for Social Media Accounts
To create a seamless transition for your loved one handling your digital properties, go ahead and set up legacy contacts for social media accounts, if you use them.
Facebook and Instagram together offer a Legacy feature that allows you to designate a legacy contact who will manage your social media account after you are deceased. This person will have permission to do things like write and pin a post to your profile as a farewell message, share details of a memorial service with your loved ones and followers, memorialize your account, and deactivate it when it’s time.
Twitter is working on adding memorialization settings to its platform, but digital executors can contact them to request to delete your account after you’ve passed. LinkedIn has a similar process and a profile removal form to be used to request deactivation of a deceased person’s account.
Taking the initiative to use these tools and include details of them in your digital asset estate plan can help reduce the stress on your loved ones grappling with managing your social presence after you’re gone.
Contact Us for All of Your Virginia Estate Planning Needs
If you need to get started on the estate planning process, contact us for a free consultation. We offer a range of estate planning services from simple wills and trusts to powers of attorney, advance medical directives, guardianships, and more.