I find that the beginning of the year is when most people stop and take a stock of their finances. Maybe its because December was an expensive month, or perhaps its because tax season is around the corner. Whatever it may be, it’s also a good idea to review your Estate Plan and contemplate your Digital Estate Plan.
A Will is an essential piece of your estate plan as it is a legal document detailing your wishes on how your assets should be distributed, and how minor children are to be looked after. However, 51% of Canadians don’t have a will. Regardless of your age, everyone should have a Will and Power of Attorney in place, so that should the unexpected happen, your financial affairs can be transitioned smoothly to your survivors.
While a Will is able to distribute your assets, it may not be enough in todays digital age.
Why is this?
Well we live in an age of many digital, online and social media accounts. We store important information on our phones, computers, tablets, emails and in the cloud. Yet we seldom think about, what happens to those accounts if we were to pass away unexpectedly.
Companies like Facebook allow you to ‘memorialize’ a deceased persons Facebook account.
But what about all of the other accounts? Many times, the accounts just lay dormant until a loved one can get to it, but does your loved ones know all of your accounts?
This is why you need a Digital Estate Plan, a document outlining all your major accounts, with usernames. I would also recommend sharing passwords to your phone, computer and cloud storage accounts with loved ones.
Think about the 1000’s of photos on your cell phone, that has not been synced online or downloaded, or the 1000’s of other photos on a computer or USB stick. The last thing you want is to lose these memories, if your loved ones can’t find or access these files.
What to Include in your Digital Estate Plan?
A list of all of your online accounts, with usernames, such as:
- Online retailers: Amazon, Ebay etc.
- Social media: Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc.
- Phone Apps: Uber, Netflix etc.
- Membership Reward Cards: Air Miles, Aeroplan etc.
- Email addresses
- Cloud Storage: Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud
Provide passwords to your loved ones for the following:
Passwords change all the time but its worth sharing passwords to the above devices with loved ones. Having easy access to your phone and computer, will make it easier to identify all of your accounts, making it easier for loved ones to close them.
Provide instructions on where your loved ones can find important files
You should have a document like this part of your Will, indicating where loved ones can find important documents such as birth certificates, health records etc. The same is true for your digital files. Make it easy for your survivors to comb through the thousands of digital files, to get to the important ones, such as: a family budget, photos, etc.
Finally, provide instructions on what you would like done with specific accounts
If nothing is done many accounts will remain idle as the site providers won’t know you are deceased and likely cant act on removing your account until a family member requests them to do so. Provide clear instructions, such as memorializing your Facebook account or having all of your accounts closed so you no longer have an online footprint.
We live in a digital age, so have a Digital Estate Plan that protects you and your family.