Last week we explored a difficult topic – Death.
The relevance of the post was about the importance of estate planning, and how you can help to avoid creating a combative atmosphere for your heirs when you pass away.
Today, I want to get into a relatively new area of estate planning that is popping up, and it revolves around your online footprint. It’s the idea of your “digital estate” and how you need to protect it.
TRADITIONAL ESTATE PLANNING
Estate planning has been around for a long time.
The idea is that you want to properly set up all of your assets to legally pass on in the best way possible, after you die.
So, getting organized and planning ahead has always been a great idea.
With the rise of the internet, a lot of our activities have shifted to the cyber world, and now there is more to consider when planning your estate.
DIGITAL ESTATE PLANNING
This new step forward in the world of estate planning helps to encompass all that we do online.
No longer can you just account for your bank account, investment account, and home; you need to consider all of the sites in which you are a member, have an account or profile, or have divulged any personal information.
With the internet, access to information and resources has become much easier, but it has also created much more complexity.
There is a much higher risk of things like identity theft.
IDENTITY THEFT RISK
Right after a person passes away they are most vulnerable for identity theft.
Identity thieves can search online obituaries and dig up valuable information on these individuals to use when opening up false credit card accounts, buying new cards, and engaging in a number of other devious activities.
At the best of times, this can be difficult to deal with. But right after the loss of a loved one, no one is thinking to guard over the estate and to check to see if anyone is trying to steal that individual’s identity. So, a lot can happen in a short period of time without anyone realizing it.
You might be thinking – well, the person has passed away. What is the risk?
The real risk is that it can have a disastrous effect on that person’s estate, and throw off the entire inheritance.
Legal fees can really begin to rack up when trying to battle creditors who are going after the deceased’s estate over faulty accounts.
Before you know it, a person’s inheritance can be severely diminished.
So, what can you do?
GETTING ORGANIZED & AVOIDING RISKS
The best thing to do is create some way for your heirs to easily access your accounts in order for them to properly close them out and liquidate any assets needed in the estate process.
You can create both hard copies and electronic copies of all of your accounts, including the usernames and passwords associated with them. You’ll want to keep them in a sealed document, or a heavily protected online tool where they are safe.
I use a service called LastPass for storing all of my account usernames and passwords. There is a desktop add-on for web-browsing, as well as an App for your phone.
It’s quite amazing how many accounts we have nowadays. Trying to remember all of the usernames and passwords is a job itself.
Another tool you can use is called Everplans. This is a web-based resource for compiling all of a person’s legal, financial, healthcare, and personal info. It is much more robust than LastPass, and has great reviews.
If you’d like more options, you can check out The Digital Beyond where you’ll find a “list of online services that are designed to help you plan for your digital death and afterlife…”
Whatever you decide to do, you’ll want an easy way for either your family or your estate attorney to be able to access the info, and to take care of closing out your accounts and protecting your estate.
As you begin to think about the future and your desires for your estate after you’ve passed, be sure to factor in your digital estate.
This is an often-overlooked part of the process, and there can be huge ramifications if it isn’t properly accounted for.