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Task: Digital Estate Plan Overview

This article on personal planning is provided by Everplans — The web's leading resource for planning and organizing your life. Create, store and share important documents that your loved ones might need. Find out more about Everplans »

One of the first tasks we talked about was the importance of sharing Passwords and Codes. Now we’re ready to cover the accounts and services those passwords unlock, and what you want done with them either today or after you’re gone. 

The official name: Digital Estate Plan. While there are many different components to your digital world, we’ve narrowed it down to these two overarching types:
 

  • Hardware: Computers, smartphones, external hard drives, tablets, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, wearables, and other digital devices.
  • Online Accounts & Services: Email and communications, social media, shopping, entertainment, online storage, and accounts associated with your day-to-day life.


Now that you know what we’re dealing with, what are the benefits of getting all that stuff organized?
 

  1. So all your digital accounts and services can be deleted, managed, or transferred to someone else after you’re gone.
  2. To ensure all paid or recurring services are closed and not draining money from your bank account or racking up credit card debt.
  3. To provide guidance and direction as to what you want done with your digital assets and overall online presence.


In the same way you need to organize your physical possessions, if you don’t get a handle on your digital life you’re leaving a huge mess for your family when you sign off from this world.

We want to touch on Digital Estate Laws really quickly, so bear with us. Almost all 50 states have passed laws that give a person's family (or executor) the right to access and manage some of their digital assets after they die. If you want to learn more go to Everplans.com and search for Digital Estate Laws.

The gist: It allows executors, trustees, or the person appointed by the court ("conservator" or "fiduciary") access to a deceased person’s digital assets. Even with these laws in place, many of the accounts we use on a daily basis are still governed by the "Terms of Service" or a "Privacy Policy" of that particular service, which means the person named might only have limited access to an account. This is why it’s helpful to share account details with someone you trust to cut through the virtual red tape and do what you want done with your accounts. The thing is, not all digital accounts and services are created equal. You’ll notice the following as you start to peel away each layer:
 

  • Some are personal: Emails, texts, photos, document storage
  • Some have value or a credit card attached: iTunes, Amazon, eBay, domain names
  • Some are out in the open for the world to see: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn
  • Some would need to be transferred to others who will continue to use them: Streaming services, food delivery, travel


How each of these are managed will vary depending on the nature of the account or service. You may want some assets to be archived and saved, others to be deleted, erased, or ignored, and others transferred to family members, friends, or colleagues. Ideally, you should specify what needs to be done for each digital account or asset. If that’s too much to ask, you should only focus on the ones that matter and let the rest disappear, never to be logged into again. But first, you need to get a full picture of what you have.

This first task is for you to simply think about these main things for each account you have:
 

  • Level Of Importance: If you were to delete it today, how would it affect your life? One way to clean things up is to kill the useless ones as you’re getting a plan in place.
  • Single Sign-On: Do you use the credentials for this account to login to other accounts?
  • Payment Method: Is there a credit card, a bank account routing number, or other form of cash attached? If you canceled the card, or closed the bank account, would it interrupt or delete the service?
  • Ultimate Fate: Should it be deleted, transferred, or do you not care at all?


Now that you know what’s up, the next series of tasks will tackle the most popular services first. We call these “mothership” accounts because they have become ubiqutious, provide multiple services, and play by their own set of rules. These accounts:
 

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Microsoft


If you live and die by some of these accounts you’ll have some organizing to do. If you don’t those will be easy tasks to skip. The rest of your Digital Estate will be organized into neat categories, like communication, shopping, and entertainment. So prepare yourself for some serious digital planning in your very near future.

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