Traditionally, your estate plan would include your will, trusts, power of attorney and life insurance policies, as well as information about your financial accounts. Most likely your documents would be printed and stored in a personal safe or a safe deposit box. Account statements and bills arriving by mail would provide additional information about your financial life over time.
With the switch to online account statements, secure digital document storage and online personal finance management, your estate details are at risk of being lost, unaccounted for during probate, or stolen if you haven’t made provisions for your digital life in your estate plan.
Identify and inventory your online accounts
Make a list identifying exactly what your digital assets are, including usernames and passwords for things like computers and mobile devices. Also, document email accounts — even those no longer used. List all checking and share accounts, online money management tools, web-based businesses (e.g. eBay), investment and other online accounts from creditors.
Include social media profiles such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., along with instructions for deleting or maintaining them. For instance, on Facebook you can indicate up front if you want your page memorialized or deleted after death. While you’re gathering your accounts, don’t forget to add online music files, blogs, community listservs, webpages and domain names to the list. Note if they need to be renewed or deleted. If you want web page or blog content preserved, be sure you have backed up your material and identified where to find the archives.
Each time you review plans for your physical estate be sure to update your list of online accounts to ensure all passwords are current and any new accounts are added.
Securely store your list
Keeping your list secure is a must-do. If you’ve stored your information in an Excel document, it’s best to password protect it. You could print and place the list in a personal safe or add the file to a secure online storage drive.
In addition, you can choose a website or mobile app that assists you with documenting your estate plan. These sites or apps allow you to store your list and manage your passwords. For example, you could choose a website that automatically alerts your representative of your saved information after your passing.
Or you could choose an app — include that on the list — that stores your passwords and files securely online. No matter which route you take, be sure to carefully review available features, costs, customer support and, most importantly, its security and privacy policies.
Appoint someone you trust to act on your list
You’ll need to find someone you trust and who is willing to carry out your final wishes regarding your digital life. Give your designated person instructions for locating your list as soon as it’s complete and place a copy with your estate documents.
When putting your affairs in order don’t forget to document your virtual life in your estate plan. Make sure your loved ones can connect your online accounts without difficulty. If you want to add your account inventory to your estate plan, be sure to provide the list to your Trust Representative during your appointment. Call or visit a branch to make your appointment today.
The advice provided is for informational purposes only. Contact an estate planning attorney if you want additional guidance