Digital assets are assets too
Everything we do, everything we are changed when the internet came along, and retirement planning is no exception. Many of the things we once did only in person or by mail (managing bank accounts, cataloging photos, paying bills, etc.) have become partially or fully digital activities. When you pass away, what happens to your Facebook account? Your smartphone? Your cloud storage?
There’s no doubt that these things have value, some as much or even more so than physical assets, and that means you should be including them (and what your wishes are for them) in your will and/or estate. The first thing you must do, as you begin preparing your estate plan, is make an inventory of your digital assets – all your account credentials, computer passwords, locations of important files and who to contact if these items can’t be accessed, and so on – so that the list itself can be a document referenced in and/or attached to your will.
Setting out your wishes
Once you have the inventory ready (and be sure to keep it updated as passwords change, accounts are added or deprecated), you can begin the process of deciding what should happen to all of it after you’re gone. You’ll want to pick a person (or several!) whom you trust implicitly as you may have information that you want kept private from other entities.
Then, for each asset, you can list a person to be in charge of said item or inherit said item, along with your wishes for its use or disposal. You can also take actions to make the job easier for the person or people who are to execute your wishes. Consider a password manager that will store and automatically input your credentials for your online accounts, so that your trustee or executor only has one password to remember (they’ve probably already got dozens of their own to remember, after all).
You could also set up a digital vault to store all your important documents in one centralized digital archive, while making sure that nobody besides your friends and family can access them, and only when needed. You might even be able to organize sections within the vault for different people to be able to access.
Wrapping it up
Don’t forget! Make sure that your will and/or estate plan includes a copy of the list of digital assets and references it. You’ve created a life online – don’t let it fall by the wayside, or worse, into the wrong hands.