Life today is different than 40 years ago. When a person dies in today’s world, they have both physical and digital possessions to worry about. In fact, there are over 3.7 billion social media users worldwide.
That’s a little less than 1-in-2 people having social media accounts.
If you’re planning for your death, it’s important to consider your afterlife digital planning, too.
What is After-Life Digital Planning?
For many people, digital aspects of their lives make up a major part of their everyday lives. People hop on Twitter in the morning to check the news and send out a tweet followed by a quick Facebook post to show the world how much their baby has grown.
Photos, posts and pretty much anything in the digital space may be a part of afterlife planning.
Facebook has even taken steps to make planning easier by allowing people to memorialize pages of their loved ones that have passed on. But your digital life goes beyond just social media accounts.
In fact, you have a lot of digital assetsthat belong to you even if you don’t realize it, including but not limited to:
Social media accounts
Accounts on eBay, Amazon, etc.
When you die, you might assume that someone can just take over your accounts but that’s not always the case. On a technical level, these accounts are your accounts until you die. When you die, the contract is over and you lose access to these accounts.
The business that controls the digital space has a right to delete your account, but a lot of companies are taking steps to put their own policies in place to stop this.
Some states, such as Delaware, have passed legislation that makes digital assets inheritable.
You have a lot to consider in your digital life when estate planning so that your wishes for your digital assets are upheld as much as possible.
Digital Assets and Their Life After Your Life
This list is in no way extensive, but you should consider the following digital assets as part of your afterlife planning to, at the very least, make the process easier on your estate. A few of the most common digital assets that you’ll want to include in your plan are:
Social media accounts: Check with the current policy of the social network in question. Facebook allows you to make your page a memorial, but this isn’t the case for all networks. In 99% of cases, you can leave your login credentials with a loved one so that they can log into your account to make a final post or even deactivate the account for you. You can request Facebook memorialize an account here.
Domain names: If you own a domain name, you’ll want to provide access to the registrars account to your estate’s executor. The executor can transfer the domain to themselves or anyone that you wish. If you don’t include the domain name in your estate, it will naturally expire and be made available to the public or go up for auction depending on the registrar.
Blogs: Add in username and password details to your blog and hosting account. You can have the executor post one last post on your behalf. You can also allow the person to take over the blog or end it if you wish.
Email: Your email accounts have a treasure trove of information relating to you. These accounts will be deleted if you don’t access them. If you provide someone with the login details for the account, they can often take it over without any concern.
Accounts on eBay, Amazon, etc: If you have seller’s accounts on any major platforms, you may leave instructions on what the executor of your estate should do with these accounts. You can leave your business and the assets that you sell in your will so that the business or account can continue. The account may be able to be transferred, but it really depends on the platform in question if the account can be transferred or a new account must be opened.
eBooks:Many people today have collections of digital books, also known as eBooks. While you may not be able to pass eBooks on to your heirs (they are tied to your account only and cannot be transferred), providing your login credentials will allow them to access and read your books. Depending on where you purchased your eBooks from, you may be able to create a family account and add your heirs to give them easy access to these books.
Music: When it comes to digital music, things get a little complicated. If you have music files stored on a computer or in an account and you paid for that music, you can leave these items to your loved ones through your will or living trust. It’s important to make sure that your executor will have access to your files and that you leave instructions on what to do with these files after they are accessed.
Photos: Like music, digital photos can be left to your friends or loved ones through your living trust or will if you own the rights to those photos (i.e. you took the photos). Make sure that these photos are well-described in your will or living trust. Your executor should also have access to these accounts so that the files may be downloaded.
Financial accounts: If you want your executor to have access to your financial accounts to pay bills and wrap up your affairs, you will need to provide clear instructions on how to access these accounts. You can use your living trust or will to provide instructions on how to access your financial accounts and how their contents should be distributed.
Estate planning in today’s digital world should consider all of the digital assets that you own or have access to. Provide login credentials and your wishes for each account in your will. In most cases, if no details are left, the accounts will expire on their own.
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