The 21st century has brought us the “internet of things,” Skype, Bluetooth, and a connection between our lives and technology like we’ve never seen before. With everyone uploading their lives onto the internet, there is a vast nexus of personal online data being built every second of the day. Each person, whether they are aware of it or not, are constantly creating this so called “digital estate,” and this often includes very sensitive data that can easily be taken advantage of by thieves and hackers even after one’s death.
The creation of our digital estate is just another aspect of our lives we need to be more aware of, learn to organize, and learn to secure. If something happened to you tomorrow, what would happen to all of your information? It’s for this reason we need to start thinking about who would manage our digital assets after our death.
Digital Executor: The Ally You Didn’t Know You Needed
One of the best ways of organizing your digital estate and keeping your digital assets secure after your death is to name a Digital Executor. This individual does not replace the Executor, the one granted the power and authority to wind up your affairs and wishes stated by you when you create a Last Will and Testament. The Digital Executor, on the other hand, can act as a complementary agent and work alongside the Executor.
There are some states that legally recognize a Digital Executor while other states do not. It’s important to check your state laws for digital estate planning to determine what legislation has been passed and talk to a licensed attorney in your state if you have any questions.
The Duties of a Digital Executor:
Transferring online assets to your heirs:
- Incoming-generating items – websites, blogs, affiliate accounts, etc.
- Any money or usable online credits
- Any accounts you want to remain archive
Closing accounts you do not want transferred:
- Social media
- Subscription services
- Any paid accounts like Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc.
Managing personal files by archiving or deleting:
- Files, photographs, videos, and any other content you have created
- Informing any online communities of your passing
Who Makes a Good Digital Executor?
Deciding who should serve as your Digital Executor requires a two-prong approach. Similar to the Executor of your Will, the Digital Executor needs to be someone you can trust. The data they will be interacting with can be either highly valuable in terms of money or highly personal in terms of privacy. For these reasons, choose someone who is close to you and that you have full confidence in.
Another main consideration in naming a Digital Executor versus an Executor is to make sure you pick someone who is skilled with technology. This might seem obvious, but no matter how much you trust a person, if they are unable to search your computer properly or navigate the internet and multiple websites, they will create more of a problem than a solution.
Once you have your candidates in mind, the next step is to decide what level of access to your digital estate you want to grant them. Start by assessing what digital property you have. Your Digital Executor could be delegated to manage all areas of your digital estate if you wish, or you could choose to be more specific.
Name a Digital Executor For:
Personal Digital Property
- computer files, personal online accounts, email and online correspondences, photographs, videos
Financial Digital Property
- financial information, bank accounts, investment accounts, credit card statements
Business-Related Digital Property
- social media accounts, affiliate accounts, web hosting, any accounts containing business assets
Name Multiple People
It’s possible you might not want to name a single person as your sole Digital Executor and find it more appropriate to split the duties. If this is the case, you can state in your Will that you would like the different Digital Executors to be and specify which digital properties they will be responsible for.
For example, if you have an established online business with a good amount of digital assets, it would be wise to name a person who has an intimate understanding of your business that lends them an optimal and unique perspective on the importance of these assets.