Before the internet, death was a relatively easy matter. Friends and family gathered together, perhaps with the guidance of a will, and doled out the remnants of their deceased loved one’s possessions. And that, as they say, was that.
Today it’s not so clear cut. We have usernames, passwords and/or security questions for every online account we have…and let’s face it, we all have A LOT of them. From your supermarket loyalty card to your bank accounts to voicemail passwords, we have vast collections of digital data stored either safely in our heads or stashed somewhere only we can find. This is supersensible while we still live and breathe, but what about after we pass?
Do You Need a Digital Will?
Arguably, we all need a digital will. To think that email accounts and passwords will be forever floating out there in the ether is not a pleasant thought, especially as these things could be hacked before final settlements have been made after passing.
Many companies do not allow access to a deceased person's accounts even if proof of death can be given. This kind of setup bypasses all the hassles of shutting down or passing on a digital world for you or a loved one.
But even more important is that some of these things have a real monetary value. If you have a fantastic online film library, for example, you may want the option to pass it onto a film buff in your life. The cost of buying all those movies would not be for anything and would give someone else great enjoyment. Beware, though, sometimes things disappear from the cloud, so unless the movies are downloaded onto an external device, there is no guarantee the library won’t shift a bit over time.
What to Include
There is a laundry list of things that should be included in a digital will, many obvious, some not as much. As a guideline, here are some of the digital assets to consider when putting together this type of document:
- PINs or passwords for computers, mobiles, tablets
- Voicemail passwords
- WiFi codes
- Social media account usernames and passwords
- Bank PINs and account info
- Recurring payments such as to Netflix or Spotify
- Medical IDs and insurance numbers
- Loyalty cards
- Shopping site usernames and passwords
- Payment account info such as for PayPal
- Cloud (storage) username and passwords, such as an iCloud account
- Access to digital photos or creative projects
- Gaming accounts
- Blogs and website account info
- Film, music, and book-buying online accounts such as Amazon or iTunes
What to Do
It’s not too hard to put a digital will together after the initial prep period. Compiling the list and deciding who has access to what may take a little thought and time, but after, as and when you add items, it will take seconds to update.
When you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil and your estate has been settled, a list of your digital assets will be sent to your chosen ones, who will presumably know what to do with them per your instruction.
Just be aware that this should not be part of your regular will, as wills become public domain once they are read. Make a reference to an additional document that can only be accessed by the executor who can dole out the info when the time comes. A digital will is also not a substitute for a Last Will & Testament, so keep it separate and all should be ok legally.
Some companies, such as wills.com, are set up to allow clients to put together this kind of will so it is all in one safe and convenient location. With a bit of foresight and time, you can create a digital will that will give your friends and family a reminder of you apart from the physical.