Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and Twitter are social media channels we have joined over time. What happens when we die in these channels?
In the pre-internet day, death was a relatively simple affair. The deceased’s belongings would be sorted through, boxed up, and divided among family and friends as a tangible reminder of life. A Will, often called a “Last Will”, is a legal document that allows a person to give instructions on what to do with their possessions once they pass away. It is also so that people can declare legal guardians for their children in the event of their death.
However, what happens to your digital assets and online presence when the inevitable happens?
Suddenly, finding all the accounts and passwords for business and personal accounts became a real challenge.
A digital Will allows you to manage the fate of your online presence and assets in one document without making arrangements with each site individually, as not all sites allow you to do this. Your website names, addresses, usernames, passwords, and other relevant information; security questions and answers will be stored in one place, ensuring your family has everything they need when the time comes.
Do I need a digital Will?
We all need a digital Will. Nowadays, so many of us manage our lives online with numerous accounts that we will need digital Wills. Check out the list below and see how many apply to you.
- PIN or passwords for your computer, tablets, and smartphones.
- Voicemail passwords.
- Bank PINs and account numbers.
- Loyalty cards, membership numbers, and gift cards.
- Medical IDs and insurance numbers.
- Wi-Fi passcodes.
- Social Media; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
- Web-based photo libraries.
- Shopping/payment accounts such as eBay, PayPal, and Amazon.
- Recurring subscriptions and payment cards they’re charged.
- Copyrighted materials, trademarks, etc.
- Information or data is stored electronically, online, in the cloud, or on a physical device.
The list goes on. Many people need to make plans for their digital presence or digital assets. This means their loved ones will struggle to make sense of it all.
Sometimes, they need to save, transfer, cancel or close accounts. Even though you may not care about some accounts, it may mean a lot to them to be able to access information such as online photo storage.
The brighter the technology, the harder it becomes for someone else to access our details. It is security needed whilst we are here! How do we pass this on to someone else?
How can I make a digital Will?
Arranging a digital Will is essential. It may take a little while to prepare, but once organised, it will be easy to manage and maintain moving forward.
Could you make a list of your digital assets? This includes everything from hardware to social media accounts to online banking accounts to home utilities that you manage online.
If you use a password manager program, you can share your access information with that account. If not, you must record key accounts’ login and password information.
Suppose you have computing hardware, such as computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, etc. In that case, you’ll want to record where those items are and any passwords needed to access those devices.
Please don’t include your passwords or digital asset access information in your last will. Your will becomes a public document once you’ve passed away, meaning anyone can read the sensitive data it may contain. In your will, refer to an outside document containing all the necessary information to settle your digital estate.
Name A Digital Executor
Who do you trust to carry out your wishes for your digital assets?
Your Digital Executor is someone you designate to help settle your digital estate, and it could be the same Executor/s of your last will.
It would be best to consider how this person/these people could access your digital assets to be dealt with, as you state in your digital Will.
Decide What You Want to be Done With These Assets
How should each asset be handled?
Depending on the nature of the property, the way you want different types of digital property managed may vary. While you may want some assets to be archived and saved, others to be deleted or erased, while others should be in transfer to family members, friends, or business colleagues. For each digital account or asset, specify how you’d like your Digital Executor to handle that asset. While your wishes may conflict with some companies’ terms of service, it’s still valuable to your Executor to know your wishes.
Do any of the assets have monetary value?
If so, you should be able to instruct your Executor to handle those assets in a specific way. For example, should revenue-generating assets be transferred to people who will continue to manage the accounts? Should credits or points, or cash values be redeemed? Should online stores you manage be immediately shut down, shut down after all items are sold, or transferred to someone who can continue to work the store? If assets continue to generate revenue, it’s worth thinking about where that money is going and who will be able to access it after you’re gone.
Difficulties to overcome
There are a few obstacles to consider when it comes to digital Wills.
Please ensure you include all the information needed and that all passwords are listed and kept updated (passwords, usernames etc. Without them, online accounts will not be accessible.
If you have stored all your data via an application on your smartphone, you should consider how someone can access the smartphone.
Some websites such as Google, Facebook, and Instagram provide the ability to activate a digital heir. I want to let your trusted contact know so you can fulfil your final wishes. Please make sure you record in your digital will where you have used these features.
In Google, an Inactive Account Manager feature lets you pick up to 10 trusted contacts who will be notified if your account goes inactive and will be allowed access to your data (with your permission). Facebook and Instagram will enable you to select someone so they can memorialise your page.
Be aware many web services do not offer an automated process for handling accounts after death, so accessibility to your passwords by digital heirs through a digital Will is essential.
Store this Information in a secure-but-accessible location!
No matter how you decide to store your digital estate plan, you’ll want to be sure that the people who need to know where the goal is known. It’s generally a good idea to tell one or two people you trust—your spouse, your adult children, or your Digital Executor, for example—where the plan is and how to access it.
This way, when the time comes, the people who need to access the plan you’ve made can find and access it.
Please feel free to contact us at www.careysuen.com if you have any questions.