You’re probably familiar with the basics of estate planning: wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and medical directives. Maybe you’ve even organized and documented your life so that someone else can manage things if you’re unable to do so yourself.
But you should be aware that traditional estate planning is no longer enough. Our world has changed substantially, and now we must take a new aspect into consideration: your digital life. Have you thought about the fate of all those online accounts (and the personal information they contain) if something happened to you? Would your loved ones be able to access them? Would they even know where to look and what to look for?
Especially in a post-pandemic world where remote schooling, online shopping, and Zoom meetings are now the norm, so much of our lives are managed online. It is vital for your family to have the means to access and wrap up your digital life in order to protect you from ongoing subscriptions, identity theft, and fraud. If you’re ready to start your digital estate planning, consider taking the following steps.
1. Document the Details
Your first step is to make a list of every digital account that you have. You probably won’t be able to do this all at once because there are so many and some are very infrequently used. Once you’ve made your initial list, you will continue to remember accounts to add while you’re going about your daily activities.
Don’t worry if you know you’re missing some accounts. You can always add them to your list later.
For each account, you need to record any information that someone would need to access and manage the account. This includes:
- Sign-in URL
- Account number
- Credit card information associated with the account
- Answers to any security questions
Be sure to make note of anything that automatically renews, like domain hosting, medications, or Netflix. If you use a password manager, then that is the only username and password you need to note. (We recommend LastPass, which attaches to your web browser and can be used across all your devices.) However, you still need to list out all of your accounts so you can leave instructions for how to handle them when you are gone.
2. Communicate Your Wishes
What do you want to be done with the different parts of your digital life? Some accounts you will simply want deleted. But others, such as photo-sharing sites, you may want archived and saved. Many people’s Facebook pages are left active after they pass away as a memorial to them and a place where family and friends can grieve. You may want to pass some things, like domain names, on to family, friends, or business colleagues. It is especially important to have a plan for anything of monetary value.
Whether you want it shut down, sold, or passed on, it won’t happen unless you put it down in writing. It is important to write out exactly what you would like to happen with every aspect of your digital life, so that your wishes can be followed. Don’t assume your loved ones know what you want. Eliminate the burden of guesswork and create a plan.
3. Name an Executor
You need to choose someone to carry out your plan and make your wishes a reality. Your digital executor is different from the executor of your estate and the role is not legally binding, although some states allow you to name them in your will.
Choose someone that is comfortable with technology and able to confidently navigate the internet, such as someone from a younger generation.
4. Secure Your Information
This list that you made contains very valuable information and could create a big mess for you if it gets into the wrong hands. You need to store it in a secure yet accessible location. You can put it in the hands of an attorney, use an online storage provider, or keep it in a locked file cabinet or safe. Make sure at least two trustworthy people know where it is stored and have the ability to access it. One of these people should be your digital executor.
How We Can Help
Of course, nobody likes to think about the end of their life; but to help set your loved ones up for success, you need to put a plan in place. This process can feel overwhelming (which is why many people avoid estate planning, leaving their families with a mess), but it doesn’t have to be that way! Remember that you’re not alone. We at Security Financial Management can help with every aspect of your estate planning, from leaving an inheritance to passing on an online business. If you’re ready to feel confident about your future, schedule a call today or reach out to us at SFM@sfmadvisorgroup.com to set up a complimentary consultation.
About Security Financial Management
Security Financial Management is an independent financial services firm dedicated to delivering exceptional service built on reliability and trust. With 3 locations in Central Florida and 1 in Rochester, MN, SFM has been partnering with clients for over 25 years, providing comprehensive financial planning. To learn more about Security Financial Management, connect with them on LinkedIn.