Not only are we living in Madonna’s material world, we are now fully in a digital world.
We buy everything online (how would we survive without Amazon’s ability to deliver that foot spa to us within two hours?), have multiple social media accounts (albeit mostly owned by a handful of technology overlords), and the obligatory user id and password for every single website we have every visited since Al Gore invented the internet. What happens to all these electronic accounts when we die?
Many of us think about who wants mom’s wedding ring, or that cookbook passed down for generations in the family, or even the family photo albums.
Very few of us consider what to do with mom and dad’s Facebook accounts, email accounts (aol.com, anyone?), and their online subscription to the fruit of the month club. These digital assets can be tricky to handle without the proper prior planning.
However, this doesn’t really seem to capture the harsh reality/frustration of struggling with website prompts to change your password when you’ve forgotten it multiple times. Who doesn’t know the frustration of picking a new password only to be told by the website that ‘new password cannot be old password’?
Instead of writing down all your accounts and ever-changing passwords, consider a password manager. And then you can just include one account in your estate plan (with the password written in a separate safe place). Encourage your parents, grandparents, and aunties and uncles (even the ones who post those bad jokes on social media) to use a password manager and include it in their estate plan.
Without an efficient way to manage digital assets, your successor trustee will need to contact each technology overlord individually to ascertain their policy regarding handling the accounts of a deceased account holder. These can vary and be frustrating to deal with at a time when your family and friends are mourning a deeply personal loss.
It’s not as difficult as you may think. An experienced estate planning attorney will always include language in your estate plan to address your digital assets.
If you have the above mentioned wonderous password manager, that one account can be included in your list of trust assets. This way your successor trustee doesn’t have to turn into a techie by trying to hack into your accounts. Instead, they can focus on honoring your wishes for your beneficiaries and helping fulfill your legacy.