You can’t control the unexpected, but you can plan for it. The complexity of our digital lives has brought countless new ways for us to store our personal information. Future valuables, like family photos, legal documents and even access to finances and healthcare information could be lost if your loved ones are unable to access your online accounts after you pass.
Of course, no one wants to think about their own mortality and many don’t create wills until later in life. Most retirement planning tends to focus on physical and financial assets, rather than who should take control of personal digital assets and information that lives online – from photos and emails, to our retirement accounts, healthcare records and more. For example, do you want someone to maintain your Facebook page or delete it? Should you share your online banking password now with a loved one to access your financial information later or would that put the account at risk now?
Here are three simple steps you can take to manage and ensure you’re prepared for your digital afterlife.
- Take Inventory of your digital assets
The first thing you need to do is make a list of all your digital assets, including login information. Your email and social media accounts might be obvious digital assets, but don’t forget about financial accounts like banking or investments, virtual property accounts like airline miles, online storage such as iCloud or Dropbox, or music or books paid for and stored on Amazon or Kindle. Each of these sites not only hold valuable assets, but typically also store personal information. Using LastPass is a helpful way to store everything in one place.When gathering your digital assets, be sure to store the information in a secure but accessible, location. Whether you store this information with an attorney, an online storage service or in a safe, be sure your digital heir and anyone else responsible for your belongings can easily access it.
- Create a digital estate plan
Once you’ve identified your digital assets, you must decide what you want to do with each asset. Create a digital estate plan to make arrangements for what should happen to that property and who should have access after your passing. Which ones do you want people to have access to and which ones do you want closed? Who do you want to inherit your library of family photos or iTunes account?This will ensure that your digital legacy lives on in the way you’d like it to, and minimizes time and effort loved ones might spend trying to recover or close accounts without clear permission or instructions and prevent someone from stealing your identity.
- Designate a digital heir
Once you’ve decided how you’d like your digital legacy to live on, choose someone you trust to be your “digital heir” to carry out your wishes. You’ll want to know your loved ones can immediately access finances and pay bills, especially if that was your responsibility. You can save a lot of hassle by ensuring your digital heir has all the passwords they need to carry out your plans. For example, the LastPass Emergency Access feature enables users to easily hand down passwords to their heirs. Your designated Emergency Access contact(s) can request access to your account and securely receive your passwords and notes, and either maintain or close your accounts based on your request.As technology continues to reshape how we conduct our daily lives, it’s crucial to create a digital estate plan for what you want to happen to your digital assets and who can have access after your death. Your digital legacy depends on how you plan for it, so why not start planning now?