A last will and testament ensures your belongings are bequeathed to your family and your last earthly wishes are fulfilled after your death. But getting your affairs in order in the social media age is a lot more complicated than it used to be. Instead of just our physical property and finances, we also have to plan for what happens to our digital estates after we die — and find a digital executor to follow through on those plans.
The concept of a “digital estate” is relatively new, but almost everyone has one nowadays. Your digital estate includes (but is not limited to):
- Your usernames, passwords, and accounts.
- Personal files like photos, videos, emails/text messages, Excel and Word documents, etc.
- Purchased digital goods like your online movie collection, your digital gaming libraries (and any items purchased for those games), and your music collection.
- All data saved on your phone, computer, hard drives, and other devices, as well as data saved to your cloud storage.
- Cryptocurrencies and NFTs.
While you can include instructions on how your family should handle your digital estate data in your will, it’s more complicated than you think. Some states require you to name a digital executor to handle those materials after you die. That person is also responsible for notifying your online friends and followers of your death and making sure any accounts, subscriptions, or other services are cancelled or transferred to your next of kin.
Like a will executor, your digital executor should be named in your will. Anyone can be your digital executor — a friend, family member, or third-party representative. You can name one person to act as both your will executor and your digital executor, though some states require separate executors. In some cases, an attorney may be the best option to make sure your wishes are fulfilled, especially if your digital estate is large or worth a lot of money, since it can take several years to work through your various files, accounts, and other data.
Of course, in order to do that, you need to give your digital executor access to your digital estate. That means you need to grant them access to all your accounts, passwords, and other login information — but that doesn’t mean they will know your TikTok login before you die. Instead, you should create a document that lists all your various logins and all of the digital assets, which the digital executor will be granted access to upon your passing. In your will, you also get to define how much of your data they’ll be able to access, and how much control they’ll have over it.
There’s a lot to consider, here — more than we can easily get into in a simple overview. As with your physical belongings, it’s best to consult with an attorney on your own digital estate will be handled in your will. Websites and services like FreeWill.com, Quicken Will Maker, and Law Depot can help you write your will online. You can also check out our guides on writing your own will and estate planning for more information.