Make Your Digital Legacy Plan in 5 Easy Steps

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So much of our life is spent online. We have our pictures, social media posts, blogs, email, and bank accounts. Ever wonder what happens to them after you die? If you don’t have a plan of action, they could be lost forever. This is where a digital legacy plan comes in. Let’s walk through five easy steps to make your digital legacy plan so you can safeguard and preserve your digital assets.

Just What is Digital Legacy?

Digital legacy is all your online information that can be made available to someone after you pass away. This means allowing a person you trust to have access to your computers and digital devices, so your online accounts and digital assets won’t be locked out forever. 

Did you know that your estate plan does not cover most of your digital assets? For example, you can’t leave your Facebook account to a family member in your Will. This is true for all social media accounts and some online content, since you technically don’t own it. But you can authorize your Personal Representative/Executor to manage these digital accounts and Gentreo’s Will includes this authority.

What Happens to My Digital Accounts After I Die?

All your online accounts and content live on after you die if the providers aren’t notified of your death. However, after a period of inactivity, some accounts may be deleted. That’s why a digital legacy plan is crucial to protect your important information. It should be part of your estate planning process.

Related: What Happens to Your Bank Account When You Die

Your Digital Legacy Plan

You need to ensure your digital assets – from your sentimental pictures in a cloud account to files stored on your computer – are safely handled after you pass. Don’t risk losing what could be precious memories that your loved ones can share and enjoy, or your family being unable to access funds in online bank accounts. A digital legacy plan spells out all your assets and how to access them. 

Here are five easy steps to set up your digital legacy plan:

Inventory all of your digital assets

The first order of business is to list every digital asset you have:

    • Online financial accounts – Checking/savings/certificates of deposit/mortgage/loans/investment/retirement, Venmo, PayPal, credit cards, digital wallets, cryptocurrency, etc. 
    • Social media accounts – Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter 
    • e-Commerce – Amazon, Etsy, eBay
    • Pictures/videos – Dropbox, Flickr, Shutterstock, YouTube
    • Smartphone accounts – Apple, Verizon, AT&T, T Mobile 
    • Email – Including business account if you are self-employed
    • Stored data – iCloud, Google Drive
    • Insurance – Home, life, auto, health, business
    • Music – iTunes, Soundcloud
    • Online content – Blogs, podcasts 
    • Websites – Private or business websites, hosting accounts
    • Subscriptions – Newspapers, magazines, Hulu, Netflix, internet/cable provider
    • Digital devices – Smartphones, computers, laptops, tablets
    • Household bills – Taxes, water, gas, electric, cable/internet provider
As you list your assets, note the online access information for each one. It’s easy and convenient to inventory and store your digital assets in your Gentreo Digital Family Vault.

Provide access

Your Will’s executor – also known as a personal representative, as we like to call them – or the people you choose to access your digital assets will need usernames and passwords. As mentioned above, you should provide the access information for each online account and digital device. Your computers and smartphone will need to be accessed so any stored pictures, files, and information can be retrieved.

A password manager may be a good option to not only keep your information secure but allow your loved ones smooth access. This stores usernames and passwords in encrypted form for all your online accounts that autofill your information when you log on to a website. Most web browsers give you the option to store usernames and passwords for websites you visit. 

There are also password manager services that store all your account information in one place. This includes not only usernames and passwords but account numbers for your credit card and bank accounts. Most of these services provide emergency contact provisions where you can set up family members to be contacted if you do not access your online accounts in a given period of time. In the event you die, and your accounts have been inactive for a while, an email would be sent to your chosen family members or executor with your access information.

Decide what you want to happen to your digital assets after you pass away

You need to decide what to do with your digital world after you pass. Do you want certain accounts canceled or deleted? What about your family pictures and videos? Who do you want to share your memories or content with? You may include a few of your digital assets in your Will. These are mostly bequeathing the monies in financial accounts to those of your choosing. When it comes to social media accounts or content in online services, it gets a bit dicey. In some cases, the content – and the access to it – dies with you.

Some social media companies are now allowing users to choose the fate of their account upon their passing. Facebook, for example, offers Memorialized Accounts. This allows family and friends to share the memories of a deceased loved one. The content that was shared in the account stays on Facebook and can be viewed. The word “Remembering” is shown next to the person’s profile.

Apple now has a Digital Legacy Program where you appoint a digital legacy contact who has authority to access your Apple accounts after you die. Up until now, Apple users’ rights to their content terminated upon death.

Related: How Apple and Facebook Bridge the Gap in Digital Legacy Planning

Google has an inactive account manager where you have a laundry list of options to choose as to what happens to your account when you pass. This includes who should be notified if the account becomes inactive, when the account is considered inactive, what content can be made available, and if the account should be closed. You must go into your respective account’s settings to make choices.

Create a document of all your decisions and wishes, store it in your Gentreo Digital Vault and share it with your circle connections. Make it clear exactly what you want. Remember, it’s all about you leaving a legacy.

List instructions

You need to make a provision in your Will or Power of Attorney document granting authority to your representative to have access to and manage your digital assets. 

It’s imperative you provide specific instructions and directions on how you want your accounts and content handled. However, since a Will is a public document, it is best not to give such details as usernames/passwords, or account numbers. This information should be listed in a separate document and included where you store your Will.  

In 2014, Congress approved the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act which governs a person’s legacy contact appointee (Executor, Power of Attorney, Trustee) access and management of their digital assets. To date, 47 states have adopted the legislation. Under this act, your appointee has authority to access web domains, cryptocurrency, and computer files but restricts access to social media, email, and text messages.

This is why granting authority and providing proper and clear instructions to your executor, Power of Attorney, or family member is so important when it comes to certain online accounts and content so your digital legacy will be honored.

Storing your documents

Once you have drafted all your documents – digital assets list, access information, decisions, and instructions – they need to be securely stored where they can be easily accessed when needed. An online vault, like Gentreo’s Digital Family Vault, is the perfect place that provides 24/7 access for your family when important documents are needed. Your loved ones will know exactly where they can find your estate plan, insurance policies, and digital legacy plan. It is your digital homebase.

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