Have you considered what will happen to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts when you pass away? Digital assets, digital footprint, digital asset management and digital estate planning are new terms that most of us are not familiar with. However, literally hundreds of new businesses have come to market to help individuals protect their digital assets when they die. Yes, you can name an individual or company to be appointed as a digital executor in your will.
It is safe to assume that most of us have digital assets. According to Wikipedia, a digital asset is anything that exists in a binary format and comes with the right to use. The things you store on your personal computers, laptops, portable media players, tablets, smart TVs, Kindles and smartphones are all devices we use to store our digital assets.
You might start by reviewing your digital footprint:
- Email Accounts,
- Loyalty and Point Programs,
- Auto Bill Pay,
- On-Line Banking,
- One Click Shopping.
Consider the social websites or apps that you might use such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Match.com, Meet Up, Vine, Skype, Snap Chat, Facetime, YouTube, Trip Advisor, Hulu and Pandora are just a few that come to mind. Don’t forget websites you may own for business or personal use. And for writers out there, how will you protect your blogs, journals or books you may be writing? Then we have sign on and passwords for very private information such as medical portals, socialsecurity.gov, FASFA for those with kids in college, our 401k sites, electronic filing of our tax returns, and on and on and on!
Times are changing and quickly. It may no longer be enough to only appoint a traditional executor for your estate, many of us will find that we will also need to appoint a digital executor. This person or company would be responsible for managing your digital assets when you die. They would insure that your digital assets would be distributed to the people you want in the way you want.
In 2005 CT signed into law a provision that allows appointed executors to access email accounts. The state requires a death certificate and documentation of the executor’s appointment before that representative can see the deceased person’s emails or social networking accounts. If you don’t want your executor to be able to access this information, you have to be specific in your will. Also consider the digital capability of your executor, would they even know where your passwords are stored or the process involved to shutting accounts down?
Not surprising, the most popular social websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter all have written processes and requirements to remove a deceased person’s account. For example, to report the passing of a LinkedIn member, the site’s Verification of Death Form must be completed and submitted. The form requires the account holder’s email address, URL of LinkedIn profile, date of death and a death notice or certificate.
If you have extensive digital assets you may want to consider working with companies who provide “vaults” that will store your websites, passwords and specific instructions for your digital executor. Everplans.com has extensive information on digital estate planning, but a google search will bring you too many resources. You might want to check with your attorney and see what services they may provide or recommend when it comes to digital estate planning.
Roberta L. Nestor is a financial advisor practicing at 491 New Haven Avenue in Milford, CT offering retirement, long term care, investment and tax planning services. She also offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network – a member FINRA/SIPC and a Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products offered through Nestor Financial Network are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth. Commonwealth Financial Network or Nestor Financial Network does not provide legal or tax advice. You should consult a legal or tax professional regarding your individual situation. Roberta can be reached at Nestor Financial Network, 203-876-8066 or firstname.lastname@example.org.