The fact that you’re reading this on a computer screen shouldn’t escape you. It may even be through email, Facebook or another online subscription service. Your life is tied to the internet but, if you don’t plan ahead, those accounts become inaccessible when you pass away.
That’s not just email, Facebook, or your Sacramento Bee subscription, it means bank account information and sites like Amazon or Netflix, with direct connection to your credit card. If you use digital currency like bitcoin, that’s lost upon your death.
It has become a paperless world but estate plans are still mostly old fashioned, pertaining to your physical assets unless noted otherwise. Laws are starting to catch up to the digital movement, but there is a long way to go. Just like with your physical world assets, if you want things handled right, it’s best to say it in a will as specifically as possible.
A will is, in essence, an inventory and distribution plan of assets. Digital accounts are more difficult to find than a folder in your file cabinet at home, so keep a clear inventory of accounts that includes logins and passwords. Do not, however, include passwords in your will — wills become public record after your death, which means your passwords would be too!
Digital estate plan options
Online services, including the Google, have recently added options in their service agreements that allow users to choose what happens to their account post-death. Many other agreements cover administrative access but do not allow the executor to read emails. If privacy is important this may suit you perfectly, but it can otherwise create new headaches for an executor. If you haven’t drafted a digital estate plan, getting administrative access is the most common concession from online providers and it’s not always a given that they’ll give you permission without a pre-written plan.
When you draft a will, make sure to be specific about management of digital properties. If you want the new administrator to have full use, dictate that the executor gets the same rights as the user. The more broad the statement, the more broad the interpretation will be following your death.
The digital world isn’t limited to cat videos, celebrity gossip and recipe exchanges. It’s become a depository for important documents from bank statements to tax returns. With cloud storage taking over, the e-filing of important documents will only grow. It’s important to make sure that the right people can access your information when closing your estate or those records can slip away.