Traditionally, last wills and testaments have been used to state final wishes about who will receive your assets. Whether it's how your bank account is divvied up, what happens to your house, or who gets your wedding china, you can address all of these assets in a last will. But as you think about all the supposedly big things, the last thing you want to be remembered for is a lack of foresight when it comes to your estate.
Appointing a Digital Executor
For example, when writing your last will, one of the most important decisions is who you'll appoint to act as your executor. Your executor is someone you designate in your will to make sure your assets are distributed in line with your wishes. This is a proven method for handling traditional assets, but digital assets have posed a challenge. They've simply been overlooked by most wills.
But times are changing. Now you can create a last will that allows you to appoint not only a traditional executor to manage your assets, but also a digital executor. This person is in charge of handling your digital assets—whether that means deleting, downloading, converting files, managing social media profiles, etc. Your last will should also list your digital assets one-by-one, instructions for how to access these assets (including logins and passwords as necessary), and your specific instructions for what your digital executor should actually do with each asset.
A Case Study
Consider some of the following scenario for your Facebook page, for example. If you die without appointing a digital executor, your family might argue about what to do with your Facebook profile. Some might want to keep it up as a remembrance to you—it becomes a kind of living memorial as your friends post condolences and memories. But other people in your family just think it's creepy to have your profile show up as a recommended friend to other people, even when you're not alive to accept their friend requests. On top of that, no one has the correct login information, so your family has to try to contact Facebook to have your profile removed. The process is slow, and the family is frustrated when they don't get a quick response.
Obviously, this is not a good scenario. However you want to be remembered, it's best to put it in writing to ensure your digital assets are handled in line with your wishes, and to make things a little easier for the people you leave behind.
How to Get Started
If you haven't created a last will before, the Rocket Lawyer last will and testament has been updated to include provisions that allow you to appoint a digital executor, as well as catalogue your digital assets and how to access them. An important tip to remember is that your digital executor not only needs to be trustworthy, but tech savvy enough to be able to follow through with your instructions, so choose wisely.
If you already have a last will in place, but it doesn't address your digital assets or appoint a digital executor, you can create a codicil that will allow you to add these important provisions. It's also recommended to create an updated power of attorney with similar provisions.
Good to Know
While a digital executor provision makes your wishes known for your digital assets, the area of digital estate planning is a relatively new field of law. It is important to research the rights and issues that may impede your digital executor from carrying out the terms of your digital asset wishes. For example, find out which websites will or will not allow account access to designated executors, what authorization is needed, if you have legal permission to access online financial accounts, and whether state law requires your digital executor to reside in the same state as you.
We suggest that you have your estate planning document reviewed by an estate planning attorney in your area for the most comprehensive solution for your needs.
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This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.