The average person spends 100 days a year online. Everything we do online contributes to our online identity.
I’m going to make a few assumptions about you from the get go. Well, mostly just one assumption. I’m going to assume that you are a member of the minority of Americans: you have an estate plan. You’ve got a will and you might have a trust. You’ve appointed people to make your financial and medical decisions if you become disabled. Having done all that planning, you’re feeling pretty secure. You couldn’t possibly need to address anything else, could you? Weeeeelllllll…
You Don’t Have to be a Half-Troll Warrior Priest
A standard estate plan deals with the real-world assets you own. Your house. Your car. Your checking and savings accounts. Often, though, the standard estate plan doesn’t deal with or account for your digital assets. “I’m not a computer nerd,” you say, “so I don’t have a digital estate.” But that’s not entirely true.
In the internet age, even the average person lives a significant portion of their life online. True, a digital estate could include things like Bitcoins or a mansion in SecondLife where you hoard Linden dollars (L$). But you don’t have to play World of Warcraft (or some other online game) to accumulate digital assets.
Your digital assets could include a credit on your Amazon Prime account. You might have accumulated 100 gazillion gold bars in Sweet Shop Extreme or Words with Buddies or [insert Facebook game of choice]. Or maybe you actually use Facebook to communicate with your family and friends. Does your executor or trustee know how and when to shut down your social media accounts?
Will they know what to do with all the images, videos, and music in your iCloud, Google Drive, or Dropbox account?
How Can You Plan for Your Online Identity?
As you can see, your digital estate could be vast. Here’s a few tips for planning for your online identity:
- Update your will or trust. Give your current executor or trustee authority to manage your digital affairs.
- Make a list of your accounts and passwords. Write down your passwords and store them in a secure place. Better yet, use a password manager app to store all your important passwords.
- Tell your agent. Make sure your digital executor/trustee has the password for the app you chose or give them access to the list of passwords you wrote down.
- Write down your instructions for how your digital assets should be managed after you pass away. This could be as complex as specifically identifying your SecondLife assets or it could be as general as a simple statement that all accounts should be terminated to the extent possible.
- Keep your documents up to date. More and more activities take place online, from social media to online banking. Every time you add an account or sign up for a service, add it to your digital estate plan. A password manager is nice for this, but your written list can be just as effective. Anything that gets left out or forgotten by you will in turn be forgotten by your executor.