Do You Need a “Digital Will?”

[11/16/2021] You’ve set up a living will, established an estate plan, divvied up the family heirlooms, and even made provision for your dog—but have you created a Digital Will?

Chances are, you haven’t even thought about what happens to all of your digital assets—your online photos, social media sites, email accounts, etc—after you’ve died. However, it’s something you probably should consider.

What is a Digital Will?

Quite simply, a Digital Will is a document of instructions to another person (the Digital Will Executor) on how to allocate and/or dispose of your digital assets.  This includes granting the Digital Will Executor access to your digital assets, and setting parameters for controlling who can and cannot access them.

Do I Really Need a Digital Will?

You might—or at least you may be glad you had one (and so will your loved ones). Think about your online presence accumulated over the years—all of the digital assets you have like your online photo albums, music, documents, email accounts, social media accounts, online banking, etc—and that unlike your home and other physical property, which can be distributed “the old-fashioned way,” login credentials, tech company privacy policies, and the law can often slow-down or even prevent easy access and reallocation.

Ask yourself if is it “okay” for tech companies to just delete your digital assets for all time after a several years (and often just months) of non-use. Alternatively, ask yourself if you want your online presence to remain online, and even public, forever? Or would you prefer that decisions about these assets will be controlled by someone you trust?

A Digital Will can help resolve these issues in a way you are comfortable with, and facilitate a smooth transition.

What Should I Include in My Digital Will?

Unlike normal wills, you probably don’t need a formal Digital Will drafted by an attorney (although people with more extensive digital presences may want to consider consulting an experienced lawyer).

Below are the basic components and steps of creating a Digital Will:

  1. Create an Inventory of Digital Assets

Write a list of every online account you have, from email accounts, to social media sites, to photo-sharing sites. Think broadly, and go back to sites you haven’t used in a while, like, for example, that online blog you created that summer. And don’t forget about sites that have your credit card or bank account information—especially those that utilize the auto-pay feature!

  1. Select and Identify Your Digital Will Executor

It goes without saying, but you should pick someone you trust and who will be discreet—and someone that others are likely to trust after you’re gone, too. Choosing an alternative executor is also a good idea. Be sure to name the person in the Digital Will itself and provide contact information.

  1. Develop Detailed Instructions

This is where you need to think hard about who-gets-to-see-what. Perhaps you only want your photo albums from your Facebook page to be accessible—but perhaps viewable only to friends. Perhaps you’ve decided that your Youtube videos from decades ago should never see the light of day. Set your boundaries and write them as specifically as possible.

  1. Safely Collect Your Login Credentials and Passwords

Gather all of your login credentials and passwords so your Digital Will Executor can access and control them. Consider a password locker to better secure them in one place.

  1. Securely Store Your Digital Will

Once completed, choose a safe place to keep your Digital Will. Perhaps it can be kept with your will and other important documents. You may even want to keep it in a safe deposit box at a bank.