Our lives rely on social media and existing in a digital world. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other digital outlets hold the story of our life. We know to create a will to devise our worldly goods and finances, but most people ignore the digital assets. A friend’s recent passing showed the importance of having a plan in place in order to put our digital affairs in order.
Identify Your Digital Assets
The first step is to identify your digital assets. In other words, where is all your digital stuff located? Make a list of all photo sharing websites, blogging sites and social media sites that you frequent. Figure out what sites would be important for your heirs to access after your passing. Think about each site that you frequently upload files, photographs or write. People keep a lot of photographs on Flickr and Facebook. Blogger or WordPress can have personal information. By making a list of your digital assets, it is easier to decide how each place should be handled after your death.
Create a Digital Letter of Instruction
A Letter of Instruction is a common Estate Planning tool. It is left for your direct heirs to read after the event of your death. Traditionally, this letter has included burial instructions and how to handle affairs in the immediate aftermath of a death. A Digital Letter of Instruction should outline your wishes regarding your digital presence. This document should outline exactly how your Facebook Friends, Twitter followers or email pals be notified of your death. It could contain a final blog post, final tweet or Facebook Status Update. This will be a digital legacy for you.
State who you want to handle your digital information, and how it should be handled. Do you want accounts to be closed down? Do you want photographs to be downloaded to memory sticks or CDs and distributed to family and friends? Are there any sensitive materials that you wish to have destroyed by a trusted confidant? Are there any websites that pay you that will need to be notified of your passing? These are all important questions that need to be addressed.
Create a Secure List of Passwords and Access Instructions
The friends and family handling your affairs will need access to your digital assets. Some websites are accommodating to the requests of family after a member has deceased, while others are difficult or impossible to deal with. In order to allow your chosen family or friends to access your digital assets, create a secure list of passwords. A physical document with the most important passwords kept with the sealed and secured Letter of Instruction will save valuable time and aggravation for your friends and family.