Over the years, we have stressed the necessity of having a will or trust in place to take care of your assets when you die. Without legal direction, upon your death the state in which you reside will determine who gets what from your estate. While you may assume that everything will just go to your spouse, many states do not follow that procedure, and if there is no will, you spouse may get nothing more than a “child’s part.” So it is critical to have a legally valid, and current, will in place to direct the disposition of all your worldly goods upon your demise!
But let’s go one step further. Have you considered what would happen if you died suddenly and left your digital presence without no one having access to those accounts? What would happen to your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, for instance? Do you know someone who passed away and their account still exists – and has not been memorialized? Because of such, you most likely need a “digital will.”
A “digital will” does not take on the same legal formality that a “Last Will and Testament” would have, but it provides a list of passwords that your next of kin can use to either take down certain social media sites or memorialize them. Up until recently, Facebook and other such sites required a court order to take down a person’s site, even if you presented proof of death. Now some websites and social media sights are allowing the owner of the account to designate “digital heirs” or “inactive managers.” For example, the following accounts offer some form of “digital heirship:”
- Google: Offers an Inactive Account Manager feature that lets you designate trusted contacts to be notified if your account goes inactive, and gives them access to your data if you have granted such permission.
- Facebook: Now allows you to designate a Legacy Contact who can memorialize you Facebook page.
- Instagram: Allows a designated contact person to memorialize your account after going through the required steps.
While these type systems are good, the easiest and simplest way is to make a list – and keep it current – of all your passwords. That list should be stored in a safe, but known, place or given to a trusted person. Another option would be to use a “password manager,” such as LastPass. Whatever process you use, you need to make sure that it is kept current with any changes that you make to your passwords.
Besides the passwords to your social media sites, do not forget adding other critical usernames and passwords to your “digital will:”
- Passwords to your computer
- PIN codes or passwords to your tablets and smartphones
- Voicemail PIN code
- Loyalty cards (hotels, airlines, etc.)
- Wi-Fi passcodes
Creating a “digital will” may not be the way you want to spend a Saturday afternoon. However, such will save your family and love ones from stress and other unknown difficulties. And once your digital will is in place, it will be much easier to maintain as you go forward.
Just as with creating a “Last Will and Testament” to covey your assets at your demise, do not put off creating a “digital will” as well. Your family will thank you!