Technology and your estate
Most people are aware that a valid Will determines how their assets are dealt with after they are gone. Your Will can appoint a trusted executor to administer your estate and provide gifts to your chosen beneficiaries. You may also appoint guardians for minor children and give directions for specific funeral and burial arrangements.
As part of an effective estate plan, it is becoming increasingly important to also consider what happens (or should happen) to our technology life after we die.
Millions of online transactions take place every day and most of us have several online accounts such as email, social media, internet banking, Rewards, Flybuys, Frequent flyers, e-Bay and PayPal. Online photos, music, videos, e-books and subscriptions also form part of our digital assets.
These online assets and accounts all need to be dealt with after a person dies however many estate plans fail to include directions for our online life after we die.
This article flags some important technology matters for consideration in your estate planning and some tips to lighten the burden for your executor or legal personal representative when you die.
Learn about your on-line accounts
Being familiar with how various service providers deal with deceased estates will help you determine the type of action you would like taken when you die.
For example, Facebook account holders can advise in advance what they would like to happen to their account when they die. The account can be deleted or memorialised. A memorialised account can provide a place for family and friends to share memories after a person dies on the deceased’s profile, and any content shared by the deceased person remains visible to those with whom it was shared. Nobody can log into a memorialised account.
You may find that some loyalty programs such as Frequent Flyers are not transferrable or redeemable after a person dies. It would seem different policies apply to different schemes. Keeping tabs on accrued benefits in accounts will assist in maximising those that are not transferrable – in some circumstances, it may be beneficial to redeem substantial rewards sooner rather than later.
Appoint a technology custodian and record your instructions
You may wish to appoint your executor or other trusted person with the task of managing your online life after you die. This person should be familiar with the digital world and somebody you can entrust with your online credentials and passwords.
Keep records of your online accounts and subscriptions including user names and passwords and store this information in a secure place.
Record your after-life technology instructions with respect to each account and ensure this will be accessible by your technology guardian after you die.
Do not include passwords for bank accounts – these can be dealt with by your executor advising the respective financial institutions and closed accordingly.
Let your technology custodian know where your online information can be found or include details of where it can be found with your Will. Ensure these details are kept as a separate document, and not recorded in your Will.
Remember your online accounts and login details are likely to change frequently and your list should be updated accordingly.
Unsubscribing or deleting accounts now that you no longer use will lighten the load for your technology custodian. Remember to update your technology list after you close an existing account. Closing unmonitored accounts may also assist in minimising the threat of identity fraud.
Streamlining your online accounts will also have the added benefit of reducing emails that you have no intention of reading.
You should also consider regularly downloading photos and videos from your mobile to a storage device so that these may be easily accessed and shared with your loved ones.
Good online management is important both before and after death. A little research and housekeeping now will help your executors and family manage your online life after you are gone.
Being familiar with the policies of your on-line account providers will help you plan what you would like to happen with each account after your death.