Is Your Digital Life Ready for Your Death?

Have You Thought About Your Digital Legacy?

End-of-life planning is a serious business.

Although none of us like to picture a world without us in it, there will come a day when nature will force us to leave the party.

Yes, that’s a sobering and uncomfortable thought. It’s especially so when you consider that not only will we be ushered away from the party — but also that the party will go on without us.

This thought can be made even more uncomfortable if we think about leaving our loved ones with uncomfortable decisions about our legacy.

Here is where the importance of estate planning comes in.

A good estate plan makes sure you pass down the family home, investment accounts, businesses, family heirlooms and even pets to the heirs of your choice.

The more specific you can be with your designation of possessions, the less stress (both emotional and legal) your loved ones will have to cope with.

Estate plans have always been important to ensure your legacy (and to avoid probate court and Uncle Sam deciding where your money ends up). But these days, there’s more to it than that.

In today’s always-connected world, now you also have to plan for your “.”

A digital legacy is the encompassing term for the planning needed to deal with the plethora of online accounts and password-protected services and social media sites such as Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and Instagram.

Our online banking, shopping and especially our social media lives continue to grow. With this comes a growing need to make sure our heirs have firm instructions on how to access these accounts, and/or what to do with these accounts, after we’re gone.

Fortunately, where there’s a widespread problem, need or demand, you can be sure the market will respond with companies out there providing solutions.

A recent article in U.S. News & World Report took a look at several companies in the business of providing digital legacy services.

According the article:

New companies are springing up to help us make plans and gather all the information our heirs will need in one place. Not only do the services provide a digital value, they provide prompts to encourage us to think about issues we haven’t put in writing, such as what music we would like playing in our final hours.

One of the companies featured in the article is Everplans.com, which actually started life as more of a content-oriented site. It later morphed into a site devoted to planning, after co-founder Abby Schneiderman’s brother died in a car crash in 2012.

According to the article, Everplans’ services:

… allow you to create a digital repository of your wills, health care directives, funeral wishes, plans for your pet, desires for your Facebook page, what you’d like to see in your obituary, family photos and even your grandpa’s cherished spaghetti recipe.

Another company featured in the U.S. News piece is FinalRoadmap.com. This site helps people dig into the details of what they want for themselves after their death. But it also gives users a place to leave instructions in the event of a debilitating injury that renders them unable to make their own decisions.

Planning for things like an advanced health care directive with specific instructions on your fate has always been important. But now there are online sites that make it much easier to deal with.

Other companies featured in the article include TheDigitalBeyond.com, PlannedDeparture.com, AfterSteps.com and PrincipledHeart.com.

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Discovering all of these digital legacy companies has inspired me to look at and update my estate plan. They have also forced me to include planning for my own digital legacy.

The concerns here for me include updating typical documents such as our family will, health care directives and powers of attorney.

Now, I need to start thinking about new things, including:

A list of important passwords, and who will have access to, or control, those passwords if my wife and I are unable to do so.

Who will take ownership of my social media sites, and what I want done with them. This includes family photos, e-mails, and other digital property.

The need to upload digital copies of my most important documents (account numbers, home mortgage documents, car titles, etc.), and creating a “digital smart vault.”

A complete list of all financial assets, accounts, and contact data so that my heirs can easily access what they need with just a few clicks of a mouse.

Yes, I know thinking about estate planning isn’t really a fun subject. Yet it is perhaps one of the most important acts of kindness and responsibility you can show the people you love.

And now, thanks to the aforementioned companies, this loving task has become a lot easier.

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Have you thought about your digital legacy? Do you have a will in place, and does that will include the disposition of your social media activities?

I am very curious to find out what you think about this issue, so please leave me a comment on our website or send me an e-mail.

***

Stocks plunged in Friday trade, as oil prices resumed their precipitous slide and dipped to a near-11-year low.

Market volatility surged to multi-year highs, as traders jettisoned risk assets en masse. The VelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short-Term ETN (TVIX), a leveraged way to play rising volatility, surged more than 30%.

The International Energy Agency said the oil glut will likely get worse in 2016. West Texas Intermediate crude settled at $35.62 after losing another 3% in today’s trade.

Whole Foods (WFM) was in the green amid a sea of red today. The organic grocer rose almost 9% on chatter that the company is having a solid quarter.

Janis Joplin’s family is $1.75 million richer today. They sold her 1964 Porsche 356C Cabriolet for well above its $600,000 market value. The singer paid $3,500 for the car in 1968.

Good Luck and Happy Investing,

Eleanore

Eleanore

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