Your “Eternal” Digital Life

by Laura Chiesman

If you are between the ages of 8 and 98 you very likely have a ‘digital life’. Many children now have access to online learning and game sites and most of us adults use online resources for banking, bill pay, data and picture storage, entertainment, personal and business communications. Over the years, I have also explored the wonderful worlds of Evernote, Dropbox and One Drive and I have personal photos, documents and information stored on all of them.

Remembering what is stored where can be a challenge, not to mention keeping track of the logins and passwords that provide access to these sites which house some of your most personal and important information.

If it’s a challenge for us to keep track of our own, and possibly our children’s information, imagine the process involved in sorting this out for someone who has passed away. Most people have worked with an attorney to set up instructions for leaving assets to their loved ones and they often assign a person to be in charge of taking care of the details. Your estate documents may name a trustee or executor who have certain rights and responsibilities for settling your affairs after death. In recent years these duties have been complicated by the difficulty in accessing online accounts and social media sites. Some attorneys now include language to address these issues in the estate planning documents that they prepare, but this is not always the case. If your Powers of Attorney, Trusts or Wills are more than 5 or 10 years old they almost certainly don’t deal with this.

We know that at our wealth services firm in Melbourne, FL, digital assets and digital estate planning are big topics. The rules and resources change quickly and you could spend many hours researching the latest and greatest solutions.

Below are just a few of the tools and resources available to help you document and organize online information, thereby smoothing the eventual process for your family in the event of your death or incapacity.

Like many big, complicated tasks most of your progress will come in taking the initial most basic steps. Three great first steps are:

  • Put together a list or spreadsheet with all of your online business, personal and social media account s, to include the website addresses, account numbers, usernames and passwords. This can be a paper document or you can save it to a disk, usb or digital file. Check out this article for details on different ways to store this information – Managing Passwords
  • Ask your attorney if your estate and/or power of attorney documents address online accounts and digital assets.
  • Tell someone close to you where you have stored your estate documents and your list of digital information

You can go further and research how different social media sites deal with accounts after death

  • Managing Social Media

If you really want to be detailed and cover everything your family might need to know at your death here is resource you can purchase:

We live in exciting times and keeping up with change can be both challenging and fun. Take the plunge and get started to help ensure you and your family have peace of mind, knowing your digital life will be in good hands. At our wealth services firm in Melbourne, FL, our financial planners can help you create the life you dream about.

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