At Life Ledger, we’re big advocates of bringing the digital world into the bereavement sector, for obvious reasons. We see technology helping to deliver a faster, more flexible and less stressful experience for the bereaved.
Starting by ‘logging in’ is so normal today that it is easy to forget just how digital our lives have become and just how far our digital presence reaches. For most of us, it represents a huge proportion of our finances, and contains an enormous amount of private personal information. When you think of it this way, the scale of our digital footprint is massive.
As important as it is to carefully manage and protect these accounts in life, it is equally important that we put measures in place to deal with them when we pass. Something like a digital will.
Although digital wills may sound like something from The Matrix, they’re actually remarkably straightforward, in fact, they’re a whole lot simpler than they sound.
To help you understand what a digital will includes, why it is helpful, and whether or not you need one, we’ve created this article.
What is a digital will? How is it different from a standard will?
So, a digital will and a last will and testament are two completely different things.
Often, people make the mistake of thinking that digital wills are just an online version of their last will and testament.
In actuality, a digital will stores all of your digital assets and the records of your digital presence in a single, convenient location.
This is designed to act as a central point of reference for all of your digital accounts, making it infinitely easier for your next of kin to manage, oversee or close each account as required.
It’s important to note that there is nothing legally binding about this document – it’s just a record of all the online accounts that you have, alongside passwords needed to access them.
What should a digital will contain?
Although we typically associate wills with the protection of our physical belongings, the management of our digital assets can’t be neglected.
After all, each one of us has an online presence, a digital footprint that we build upon every single day.
Most of us will have online accounts for the following services (but your list could be a whole lot longer than this):
- Bank or investment accounts
- Loyalty cards and memberships
- Online gift cards
- Social Media, for example Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
- Cloud storage for photos, data, music, etc.
- Online shopping accounts, for example, with Amazon, Paypal and iTunes
- Subscriptions that are managed online
- Electronic storage of data or information
Consider how many different accounts that you have set up (and not just the large or costly ones, either). For almost every element of our life, there’s an online account to go with it
Each of these will have its own specific access requirements, which could be a password, login name, associated email, or two-factor authentication.
When you are creating your digital will, you need to list all of your online accounts. Then, alongside each entry, add the login details for each account, and any other key details about it.
You should also define what to do to the account in the event of your death. This could be closing the account, transferring it to someone else, or sending out a death notification to the service provider.
You could do this manually, by typing a list of your accounts into a tool like Excel. Alternatively, you could choose to set up an account with a password manager application. These tools allow you to save the login information of all your digital accounts in one portal that requires a single username and password to access.
How is a digital will included in the death management process?
If you create a digital will, you should refer to it in your Last Will and Testament. However, its details and information (especially any passwords) should not be included in your official will.
This is because wills are public documents, so if you included the contents of your digital will in your physical will, then this sensitive information would be made available to the public (which obviously, is highly risky).
Another key point of consideration is deciding who will be responsible for managing your digital will. You could choose to have your will executors also manage the digital will. Or, you could ask a family member to fulfil the requirements of the digital will for you. Whoever you choose, if you have created a password manager account, then you will need to provide them with the login information for that portal.
What are the benefits of creating a digital will?
- It saves your family a lot of time and stress
- It ensures your family know of all the digital accounts that exist under your name
- It is designed to be easy to use, for people of any age, and of little or no digital background
- It allows you to have your social media accounts removed after you pass away
- You can name anyone who you trust – either a legal professional, a family member or a friend – to take care of it for you
- It provides specific actions for each of your accounts
- It protects your personal information
- It minimises the risk of further charges being incurred by you after you pass
- If appropriately managed and transferred with care, it is very safe
Building on the final point, it is important that you are aware of the risk of digital wills. Naturally, there is a risk attached to storing your passwords in a document such as this. The best way to manage this is by leaving the digital will in the hands of someone you trust.
So long as caution is exercised, digital wills are a fantastic way to manage your digital accounts. They are quick and easy to set up, can be updated whenever you make a change to any of your accounts, and allow you to include any additional details that may be required.
Who knew it’d be so easy to solve such a techy dilemma?