Today, most family heirlooms like photos, journals, and financial effects are created and stored digitally. The online services that store these digital assets may not be accessible to your loved ones after your death. You can create a digital estate plan to help preserve your digital assets and your digital legacy.
Choosing a digital executor is an essential part of your digital estate plan. You can state your specific digital asset preferences in an addendum to your Will or Estate Plan; your digital executor will carry out your final wishes.
To create your digital estate, begin by organizing your digital assets into these categories:
- Computers and devices: content from desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones
- Content from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others
- Online content from businesses and stores, blogs, and websites
- Multimedia from digital content sites
Next thoroughly inventory and backup your devices to protect your digital content.
Choosing a Digital Executor
Both physical and digital assets help preserve our memory for our loved ones, and both must be cared for over time by a conscientious curator.
Your digital executor is the person or online service that will manage your digital assets after your death. They should be able to understand and manage the technical aspects of digital content. They will also distribute or delete your digital assets according to your wishes. Providing computer and mobile device access to your digital executor or heir – including physical location, usernames, and passwords – is essential to protecting your digital estate.
The legal executor of your estate may not have the technical understanding to protect your digital assets. Since your legal executor has authority to settle your physical estate, consider appointing that person as your digital executor also, if they are able. If you name a separate digital executor in your Will, consider instructing your legal and digital executors to work together to manage your digital assets after your death.
Choosing Your Heir(s)
Your heirs are the people to whom you will leave your assets after your death. If you have a simple estate, appoint one person, like a spouse or family member, to be your legal executor, digital executor, and sole heir. Choices for appointing a digital executor or heir include:
- Parents, children, or friends
- Everyone – leaving your online content for anyone to access
- No one – removing or deleting your digital content
After choosing a digital executor, decide what instructions you want your digital executor and/or heirs to follow for your specific digital assets. Then decide how your final wishes will be carried out after you pass away.
With technology rapidly evolving, your digital estate that could exist well beyond your physical life and provide a lasting memorial for future generations to cherish.