A growing concern for those managing the process of closing an estate is figuring out where deceased actively maintained accounts and kept items on the web.
We often plan for ‘physical assets’, but as Claudia Buck points out in this recent article, many do not have a plan in place for “digital assets.” What happens to our online accounts and assets like photographs is important to consider as it can be difficult to find all places where accounts exist and take control of them in a timely manner, or before they may be abused.
Financial Advisor magazine also recently wrote on the topic, and as Ann Marsh points out with an example of a comatose scenario where an individual who lost the ability to capitalize on a financial transaction, this is not just for your social media, but also for getting information to those power holders who may need it.
Buck points to new services that may allow you to have a “digital executor” with access to your accounts at your passing. Financial Advisor magazine references other services that allow for a very personalized dissemination of pre-written messages to specific individuals and groups which may contain instructions on how to access accounts. These services may also include autobiographical websites which leave the story of your life on the web as you would like it.
These services may seem to be too new for some and certainly will yet evolve from their current state, but if you want to go it alone below are a few ideas:
Leaving access to your personal accounts. This could be as easy as keeping a list of all of your open accounts and password list available where a loved one can find it, but that can also be a dangerous approach. Since passwords are always changing and being updated, a workaround to this may be to use a password manager like RoboForm, which with one password stores and maintains all of your login information across the web. Since you should frequently change this password as well, you can store a list of preselected passwords that may open your RoboForm account with your estate planning documents.
Informing others of your passing. Part of the appeal of the new services is they take the burden of informing many of your passing, and allow you to send personal messages. A more personal approach may just be to handwrite or type those messages yourself, and maintain a current contact database of all of your contacts.
Just as with traditional estate planning, the goal by planning ahead is to take the burden off of those that are already dealing with a huge loss. While you may not think your social media and online life warrants planning since sites like Facebook pages can be taken down, both articles point out that these can also be abused at your survivors expense, and may take time to stop any unauthorized or unwanted postings.