By Luanne Kadlub
If you’ve prepared your estate plan and have your power of attorney and executor in place, you’re probably sitting back in your easy chair feeling like your bases are covered for that inevitable day. But are they?
Do you get one or more bills sent to you online? Do you have social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.? What other online accounts do you have that require regular or intermittent payments, such as PayPal, retirement portfolios and health/life insurance? And what about that online personal journal?
My guess is you have not accounted for your digital afterlife in your estate plan. I know up until now I haven’t. I’ll be talking to my attorney about this when I update my will.
In the meantime, let’s start with some things you can do now. Like passwords. From the day you hopped onto the Internet and opened your first email account, you’ve been instructed not to reveal your password to anyone. This still holds true – with this one tiny caveat: You do want your estate (power of attorney and/or executor) to know how to access your accounts when you’re gone.
One solution is to make a list of all accounts, both financial and social, and corresponding passwords and lock them away in a draw or file cabinet and leave instructions on where to find the key. Problem with this plan is you’ll probably change your passwords a gazillion times because you forget what they were somewhere along the line and created new ones or you do as the experts preach and change it every few months to keep the bad guys at bay.
Another solution, and one that makes it easy on you and later for your power of attorney/executor, is to use a password manager. These online services provide one safe password for you to access all of your online accounts. Before signing on with such a service, however, go to its BBB Business Review at bbb.org to see customer reviews and to find out if there is a patten of complaints.
When it comes to social media, you should decide if you want your posts or pages to live on for eternity and make your wishes known in your will. For example, Facebook allows pages to be memorialized as a way for family and friends to save and share memories of the deceased. If this is what you would like, a family member will need to fill out a memorialization request form on Facebook. Or you may choose instead to have your Facebook page deleted. Your choice.
Deactivating an account on Twitter is the most challenging. It requires a copy of a death certificate and a link to an obituary or death notice. LinkedIn, on the other hand, has a fairly simple form.
And what about that personal journal? And digital photos? The journal is probably best kept as a locked document unless you want others to read it when you’re gone. Your call. On the other hand, family members love photos. Gone are the days when family squabbles erupt over who gets the photo of Mom and Dad on their wedding day – provided it’s been scanned and uploaded to a website accessible by all family members. That’s easier to do now than later.
Start With Trust. For more consumer tips and information, visit wynco.bbb.org.