Is Your Digital Footprint in Good Order?

As many of us travel for spring break and upcoming summer trips, we are heavily focused on the logistics to and from our destination, lodging arrangements, activities during the trip and so much more. Before we leave, oftentimes we are wrapping up last minute work deadlines, ensuring pets are cared for and packing the necessary items so the trip goes smoothly. However, during the joys and excitement of planning a get-away, few of us rarely pause to consider the state of our personal affairs should the unthinkable happen. Nothing like an overly turbulent takeoff to quickly snap the mind into such thoughts.

As part of our promise to our clients to “gently help them stay accountable to their best intentions”, we work closely with our clients and their estate attorneys to ensure their end-of-life plans are in good order and up-to-date. Obviously, the unexpected can happen at any time; get-aways, however, serve as a good catalyst to re-check and re-think.

In recent years, a new category of assets has appeared on the scene which can be more complicated to pass on than traditional assets of stocks, bonds and cash. The list includes such valuable property as digital domain names, social media accounts, websites and blogs that you manage, and pretty much anything stored in the cloud. In addition, if you were to die tomorrow, would your heirs know the passcodes to access your iPad or smartphone? Or, for that matter, do they know your email account or the Amazon.com or iTunes shopping accounts you’ve set up? Would they know how to shut down your Facebook account, or would it/should it live on after your death?

A service called Everplans has created a listing of these and other digital assets that you might consider in your estate plan. They recommend you share your logins and passwords with a digital executor or your heirs. If the account or asset has value (i.e airline miles, hotel reward programs, domain names) these should be transferred to specific heirs – and you can include these bequests in your will. Other assets should likely be shut down or discontinued, which means it would be wise to appoint a detail-oriented person with some technical familiarity as your digital executor.

The Everplan website also provides a guide to shut down accounts. For example, visit https://everplans.com/articles/how-to-close-a-facebook-account-when-someone-dies which tells you how to deactivate or delete a Facebook account. Note that each option requires the digital executor to log into the site first; otherwise, that person would have to submit your birth and death certificates and proof of authority under local law that he/she is your lawful representative. The executor can also “memorialize” your account which means freezing it from outside participation.

As individuals and families wrap-up spring break trips and look towards summer travel, it’s important to consider your overall estate plan. This includes, of course, formal traditional documents such as wills and trusts, a personal Letter of Instruction, an Ethical Will, but also now your digital estate plan. As advisors, our role is to not only help you reach your financial goals, but also partner with you to ensure your legacy is protected.