Digital Estate Planning

Posted 06 Jun 2014 by Natalie LeBlanc

Changes in the way we use technology to manage our lives, means changes in the way we must plan for our estates. From computer passwords to online banking, all factors should be included in your estate plan.

We all know how important it is to have a plan for your physical estate at the time of your death, including property, heirlooms, and financial assets. Many people, however, overlook their digital assets. More and more of what could be considered “digital property” is housed somewhere on your home computer or “the cloud”, including gigabytes of bills, tax documents, pictures, and receipts. In an effort to stay green, many of us no longer keep hard copies of these items, but this can make it much more difficult for your family to manage, or even access your digital estate.

A key part of your digital estate is the password you use to protect it. Many of us hesitate to write these down, but when it comes to planning for your death, keeping a record may be necessary. An alternative would be to express where your passwords can be found, rather than directly including them in your will.

Passwords become less helpful if your family members aren’t even able to identify all of the accounts you hold. It may be a good idea to keep a list of important accounts, banking or otherwise, that your family should be able to access. Some other accounts might include your email, social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), online file storage (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.), or desktop user accounts. Your smartphone may also be included if you use a password (or “lock screen”) to gain access to it.

Some social networks even have preferences or options you can set to manage your profile upon death. Facebook, for example, recently introduced the option to name an account "executor" who can make one last post, archive your photos, etc. Before this option was introduced, Facebook simply "memorialized" your profile. Consider outlining how you would like your online profiles to be handled by your loved ones by deleting, de-activating, or archiving the account.

In your day-to-day activities, keep in mind the accounts you use and whether or not your family might need access to them after your death. If so, plan for it!