Personal Finance 

Do You Have a Digital Executor?

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CemetaryIncreasingly, our lives are online. From online bill pay to discount brokerages to social media accounts, we all have technological footprints. But what happens to all of that information when we die? How can it all be taken care of?

The answer is becoming a part of estate planning.

If you want your heirs to be able to access your accounts and make appropriate arrangements with your online accounts, you need to appoint someone who can take care of all those accounts. This person is a “digital executor.”

What is a Digital Executor?

Your digital executor is the person tasked with making sure that your online accounts are disposed of in the manner that you prefer. Whether you want your Facebook profile turned into a memorial page, or to make sure that your utility bills are properly discharged, or you want your heirs to know about that brokerage account that you have, your digital executor can help.

In order to appoint a digital executor, you will need to specify who you want to take care of everything. In many cases, this is the same person that acts as executor for your will, although it can be a different person. Be specific about what you want to have happen with all of your online accounts. Include this information with your documents related to your will and to your power of attorney.

List Your Digital Information

In order for a digital executor to do his or her job, he or she needs to know what accounts you have, and how to access them. You don’t have to give all this information to the executor right now, though. You can keep the information with your other estate planning documents, or at least have those documents explain the safe place you’ve decided to keep them, since the needed information will change regularly. Some of the information that you need to provide includes:

  • List of all your online accounts, including bank, brokerage, social media, email, and blogging accounts. Also include transaction accounts, like PayPal and Google Checkout.
  • Include usernames and passwords for all of the accounts.
  • If applicable, include any contact information related to your accounts.
  • List security questions associated with each account, as well as the answers.

Since login information and what sites you use can constantly change, consider using a password protected USB drive to store as much information as possible. Also, use a password manager like LastPass or 1Password to store all your latest passwords. Not only will that help your digital executor, but it can help you protect your online banking and other accounts now by using stronger passwords without having to memorize them.

Be explicit about what you want to happen with each account. If the account is a financial account, you need to make sure that any beneficiaries you have listed on the account match with your wishes. Remember that the beneficiary information that a financial company has outweighs the wishes you state in a will. So you want that to match.

Let Your Heirs Know

Once you have made arrangements, make sure your heirs know that you have a digital executor, and that you have a number of accounts that will need to be addressed after your death. Your heirs should also know where you keep your estate planning documents. If you have them on file with an attorney, your heirs should know how to contact that attorney. If you have them in a safety deposit box or safe, let your heirs know how they can access it. You should have copies of these documents in a couple different places.

Tom Drake is the owner and head writer at Canadian Finance Blog, covering everything from universal topics like budgeting and investing to Canadian topics like RRSPs and the TFSA.

(Credit: Chad McDonald)

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3 Responses to “Do You Have a Digital Executor?”

  1. Stuart Laing says:

    Really thought provoking post Tom.

    This is an area that few people think about.

    The other day I was reading that in most countries there is still no legal mechanism for dealing with digital assets such as Kindle ebooks and music bought from iTunes.

    It seems that there’s still no way to share your digital assets with more than one person. If you had an old fashioned record collection you could leave it to several people. But if your music is contained within one account, it can’t be divided.

    The law has a long way to go to catch up with the modern world.

  2. The Warrior says:

    This is like the new dropbox. You know the thing you keep meaning to do and then your computer crashes and you have nothing saved.

    In other words, thanks for the push. I need to, at the least, create a journal for my family to address each account accordingly. Add it to the weekend to do list and actually do it this time. 😉

    The Warrior

  3. Shirley says:

    This came up some time ago and I put all the pertinent info on a flash drive and hand-delivered it to my daughter.

    She and her husband travel extensively and she does the same, also adding their iteneraries and emergency phone numbers before they leave.

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