In the past few years with my organising work I have become aware of the term ‘digital estate’ which is something that needs to be dealt with in today’s society before or after someone passes as we are surrounded by technology and social media. If you stop and think about it so much of our lives and private information is now stored in the digital world. Should something happen to you tomorrow would your family know how to access your digital information and be able to shut down your accounts, withdraw money or even access a simple thing like your phone?
Every day, our online and digital presence grows and is more and more central to how we do business and interact with others. The last thing you want to happen is if you are the person who manages all of this then for those left behind to struggle to function not only with out you but the vital information needed to access what they need.
Digital estate – what does it mean?
This term has been around now for a few years and refers to digital media and rights that can be inherited when someone passes. These days most people usually have a digital presence of some form and often includes online accounts, passwords, contracts, receipts, medical information, banking/paypal, loyalty programs, digital images and videos, personal websites/domains and all different types of social media. Should you own a business there is also all of theses things for that as well as things like intellectual property too.
A digital estate is not only our online presence but also data stored digitally on personal technology such as a phone or computer.
This refers to the process of organising your digital property and assets and then making arrangements for what should happen to that property after your death. Not only does an estate plan provide awareness of what someone has but also provides the necessary information for them to be accessed.
Another way of looking at it is that is is an invaluable roadmap that you leave behind for your loved ones to manager your digital life after you have gone. It is also an opportunity tell your family what you want to happen to each account after you are gone.
So how does having a digital estate help my family should something happen to me?
By creating a digital estate plan it will help your family to:
- find any online accounts you have
- have passwords and information required to access those accounts or the information held by those accounts
- see if your digital property has any financial value
- distribute or transfer any digital assets as per your wishes
- avoid someone stealing your identity which happens a lot these days.
These days only about 40-50% of the population are estimated to have a will and you can bet this number will be much lower when it comes to having a digital plan.
Starting your digital estate plan
Judith Kolberg, a professional organising colleague of mine from the US and author of Creating Your Digital Estate Plan, suggests compiling the following information for each of your accounts:
- Name of the account
- Account Number
- Location – URL
- User name
- Security question/s and answer/s
- Current activity – what happens when i.e. gas bill is automatically debited from this account on a particular day of the month
- Notes – this can include further information as well as what you want too happen to this account should you no longer be here.
How you actually go about your digital estate plan is naturally up to you and these days there are many ways of storing this information from putting it in a password protected spreadsheet to using one of many different Apps like LastPass.
Hopefully this BLOG gives you a bit of food for thought, if you haven’t already thought about it, to work out what digital assists you might have and should something happen to you would your family know what you had and how to access them. If not then maybe it is time to do some digital estate planning.
Don’t put it off thinking nothing will happen to me (naturally I hope it doesn’t) and start planing while you still can as the more you can do now to assist love ones at a time of need the better.
Should you still need assistance this is something I too can assist you with compiling so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
For more information here are a couple of useful websites or books to have a look at:
- Your Digital Afterlife – Evan Carroll and John Romano and their website http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/ has quite a lot more information.
- Creating your digital estate plan – Judith Kolberg