Until a life insurance newsletter asked me, “Do you have a digital estate plan?” I hadn’t given any thought to the concept.
But everyone reading this has a computer, tablet, or smart phone (and perhaps all three), so guess what? We have digital records.
A digital record would be all the “stuff” we do on our electronic gadgets. We have email accounts and social media accounts. We have our own channels on YouTube and we’ve made custom playlists on music apps. We have accounts to shop online. Perhaps we view statements and pay our bills online. Some of us do online banking where there isn’t a brick-and-mortar location to physically visit to retrieve the funds we keep there. Forget the old paper albums; some of us keep all of our photos online. Businesses like mine have their own websites, and that creates an even higher level of digital property that would need to be addressed in case something happens to a sole owner; there is no corporate IT who’s going to step in to handle it.
Let’s face it; I have no idea what my husband does on his computer (besides his actual job work and watching videos on woodworking and bee keeping). I, on the other hand, am the accountant for our family, use social media, and am the sole member of Lifted Up, LLC, and I do all of the above.
As the family accountant, I keep a spreadsheet of our bills and the first of each month, I adjust the totals to reflect what is due on the varying amount ones. For the few that aren’t set up for automatic payment, I go online and schedule the full payment for the due date. Boom. The bills for the whole month are paid in less than five minutes. But what if something happens to me? Somebody needs to be able to step in and handle that.
I’m hoping this is an eye-opener for you to appoint someone to handle all of your digital property in the event of your death or incapacity.
That means you’ll need to have a list of all your digital accounts and how to access the accounts. Then you’ll choose a person to act as your digital executor if you decide on someone other than your primary executor.
Next you’ll need to outline in writing your intentions as to what steps to take with each account and include a copy of that with your other estate planning documents. Check with the laws of your state to determine how to make this a legal action.
On FinancialConsulate.com, they tell the story of a young, not-yet-21 soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Fallujah. He had left no will of any kind, so his parents were left to handle what meager estate he had. The soldier had been keeping a journal on his Yahoo mail account, and his father wanted to read it, print it, and share it. But no one knew the young man’s password. Yahoo would not share it under the legal terms and conditions of their business. After a long court battle, the company finally agreed to print out the journal for the parents.
I want you to think for a moment about all your digital belongings. Are you comfortable with letting it all disappear the moment you do?
Remember the quote by Gregory Herman-Giddens from Tuesday’s post?
“Bad things happen to the families of good people who die without a will.”
The same can be said for people who die without a digital estate plan.