Estate planning used to mean having your financial affairs in order so that those left behind would be taken care of or not burdened when you are gone. It still does, but now that we have so much personal and financial information stored on our computers and on the internet, this practice has evolved to include addressing digital assets as well.
You don’t have to be a popular online celebrity to worry about what will happen to your digital presence once you die. This is now a common concern, and digital estate planning can help direct how your accounts are handled or closed in the future.
The eternal profiles
Many of us have experienced running across social media profiles on Facebook or Twitter of loved ones who are no longer with us. For some it is comforting and for others, it can be very disturbing. Friends and family will continue to post and “tag” those accounts for years, keeping them alive regardless of what that person would have wanted. In the past, not many would think of passing down their social media accounts or passwords after they die. Fortunately, this is beginning to change.
Digital estate planning
Some social media platforms have implemented features to expedite digital estate planning for its users. In early 2015, Facebook implemented its Legacy Contact service where users can either choose to have another Facebook user manage their account after their death or opt to have their social media profile deleted entirely. Instagram has a similar policy but Twitter as yet does not.
Beyond dealing directly with your social media accounts and making provisions for legacy contacts, it’s important that you have all of your digital information in one place and tell someone how to access that data. In fact, this has turned into a growing tech industry as several startups have gotten into the business of digital estate planning.
Some of these services allow people to store the details of their online accounts for those left behind but also go several steps further. Users can express wishes with regards to plans for pets, who they would want in the room during their last minutes, and other details that they may not wish to share while still living.
Digital estate planning isn’t meant to be a replacement for formal estate planning documents such as a will or advanced directive, but it is beneficial to consider because it helps you address what you want to happen with your social media presence after you pass away.