We recently wrote about estate planning, discussing what an estate is and our important takeaways from the planning process. If you are new to estate planning or want a refresher on some of the key aspects, be sure to check it out. We definitely had some eye-opening moments and many others that required some serious and informed discussion.
I mentioned previously that we are working with an attorney to create our estate documents. One of the things that struck me when reading the drafts was the volume of legal wording that covers your digital life. You know, Facebook and Twitter accounts, registered web addresses, and even just your Amazon account to name a few. And what about your Apple ID and password managers?
The point is, most of us can readily think of bank accounts, investments, and insurance when estate planning. But we tend to overlook who should be responsible for our digital streaming accounts when we can no longer Netflix and chill. Take a moment to think of the things you send to cloud storage and you will see why planning for your digital estate is just as important as who gets your home or car when you’re gone.
Good news – just about every web-based operation has already considered this and address it in their FAQ, help section or forums. In fact, many digital suppliers even include ownership information in their end user license agreements (EULA) or Terms of Service (TOS). You have carefully read all those, right?
It shouldn’t be a surprise that entire industries have cropped up around digital estate planning. Companies like AfterVault, Clocr and Everplans offer one-stop estate planning for your digital assets. Most of these are fee-based services which can help you sort through your digital life and document your plans in one place. Keep in mind that this will really be a separate place, different from where you document the rest of your worldly goods.
Which brings me back to our original estate planning process. We ultimately wanted a single place where we could document all of our financial, physical and digital holdings and plan for them when we’re gone. And we wanted to make sure all of that aligned with state and federal laws so that our heirs weren’t burdened with probate dispositions. For us, that meant working with an attorney who knew all about these things.
Digital estate planning has become so important that AARP wrote about it last year. The article is a great place to start to plan for after your digital life because they include a very helpful do and don’t section for crafting your digital estate plan. From there, you can decide if a digital vault is a good option or maybe research the pros and cons of online wills on Consumer Reports.
If you choose to look for an estate attorney, check out this Investopedia article with 10 questions to ask before engaging their services. They also include a few questions you should ask yourself after you have an initial conversation. Estate planning can be legally complex and emotionally challenging for you and your loved ones. Put in a little time researching your options and remember to include your digital life. Making informed decisions now will lead to peace of mind.