If you have more digital assets which you own, you can also consider getting specific hardware designed to protect digital information. A perfect example would be a hard drive using complete encryption — without the proper password, nothing can be retrieved, and your assets are perfectly safe. You just have to be sure that your executor does know where the storage device is, and has all the keys to unlock it. The cons are simple: the locker must be physically accessible, undamaged (when sometimes defects appear over time, rendering your assets inaccessible), and you will have to physically access it to update it.
Simple: choose a fiduciary and give him, her or them the proper power of attorney, so that they can manage your belongings.
The choice of a will executor for your digital assets, or your “digital executor”, is a critical step in the planning. It can be an executor different from your regular will, or someone who is not in charge of your offline estate. Actually, you’d want to select someone who is very comfortable with technology, to be sure that this person will execute your orders and not make any blunder. Apart from this, it could be a good idea to find someone who is geeky enough to understand what you want, and to apply it. Finally, don’t choose someone who is too close from you. If you need to delete some materials, you don’t want your executor to fail on this because it reminds him or her too much of you.
The person in charge may or may not be aware of your choice, you can arrange the name on your will — but the key and lock to the assets will have to be in a separate list, to be sure you can update it regularly, when changing your passwords. And if you open an account for another service? That’s going to be the same. Just open your lists, add the account, save the file and voila!
“If you haven’t made arrangements in advance, those assets are going to pass to your next of kin. Maybe that’s not what you want—maybe you want to spare the spouse the embarrassment or the pain of it to keep your legacy intact.”
Another advantage of selecting only an executor and to have a separate list will enable you not only to manage your accounts, but you will be able to manage the beneficiaries. An access can be revoked only by changing the password of a file, and saving you the trouble of a trip in the attorney’s office.
“If you have an estate-plan document book, devote one page of it to this. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy,” Ms. Hays says. “If you want [an account] to be ongoing or serve as a memorial, you need to make that known to the person you ask to take care of this. Otherwise, they’ll probably just shut it down.”.
A digital executor can be used to prevent any issue around your death. If you own an online store, like an eBay account, an unscrupulous competitor could use your obituary to make your different accounts closed. Emails could be accessed by anyone smart enough, providing a proof of your death.
Finally, a good thing to do is to integrate the name of this digital executor into your “regular” will — to avoid any potential contestation.
Why would it be important to be prepared to give away your accounts information? Different emails providers have different policies. Google allows your next of kin to access your correspondence if they produce a proof of death ; Hotmail does the same, and asks the next of kin to show they have power of attorney. YahooMail.. simply erases your mail history.
Hence, it may be easier for everyone to get access to your mails and execute your will concerning the future of these assets.
Along with the usernames, passwords and emails potentially linked to the accounts, be also prepared to write down the security questions. Your loved ones may be or may not be the one knowing ALL of the details contained in the security questions, leading to an easy recovery of the accounts.
However, do not hesitate to segregate your different passwords in separate, password protected, lists, depending on the beneficiary of your goods. You can then store the different lists on a common storage medium (online storage, physical medium, …) and to limit the access to this resource only to your executor. It’s the same as putting different boxes with different locks for different beneficiaries, waiting in a global safe which is only accessible by you and your executor, but where your executor does not own the key to individual boxes.
Chances will be that you won’t be here anymore to tell your executor what to do with each part of your estate — I guess. Remember, your executor will have no way of knowing how you feel unless you spell it out in advance, so you will have to write a document clearly stating what to do with each item.
Take the example of Facebook — no, I’m sure you have an account over there. In 2009, Facebook explained the reason behind creating a memorials for people who left. These memorialized accounts can no longer be found in Suggestions or found by non-confirmed friends, and are a place for friends to share memories in remembrance. Sensitive information are removed, and nobody will access the account anymore. That’s fine, but without preparation about what you’d love to remove or to keep, potential issues can arise. Moreover, you could decide of what you’d like to be remembered for : videos, some text if you used to write, and so on. That’s also a sensitive option to avoid your facebook ghost Liking pages or updating statuses, like some do.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, if you decide to keep resources online, you may have to engage financial assets in it as well. If you want your blog, portfolio or videos online, you’ll have to pay a service provider for it, or make sure that your executor will set up a mechanism to cover those costs. Free hosting solutions can be a solution, if you are not afraid of losing your legacy if their terms change.
It may sound stupid, but once again be sure that this executor will have an easy access to each piece of the puzzle : will, password lists, instructions. It’s also a good to idea to give power of attorney to your executor, to be sure he or she will have all the necessary support from the legal point of view.
The quick and easy solution is to have your password list stored on a DropBox account, in different password vaults. The vaults can be linked in an instruction file to specific beneficiaries. Each of these vaults will have a separate password, that your digital executor may not have. I do use KeePass for this, but there are also examples of using other software such as 1Password.
The DropBox account will be linked to your digital executor so that, in proper times, the executor can retrieve the password of the DropBox on a specific safe-deposit box, so that the executor send the vaults to the appropriate beneficiaries, with a reminder of the password. You can be creative, it should be something that you and the beneficiary have in common: the name of the first teacher, using a birthday, using the name of a common boss… You have plenty of options!
An advantage of this is that the key to your assets are stored on your side, and you’re not losing your control over them. Process to update your lists is simple: you just edit it on your computer and that’s already put in safety.