Estate planning attorney James Lamm who writes the blog “Digital Passing” advises people to plan ahead for their virtual afterlives. Your best bet is to make sure valuable memories and intellectual property are stored somewhere besides a social media account — so back up your photos on a USB flash drive.
Still, given the prevalence of social media in today’s world, Lamm advises these four steps as a sort of digital estate planning guide to help ensure your wishes are carried out — even though, he says, with the law as it stands currently, there are no guarantees.
—KEEP A LIST: Make a list of all your digital accounts including social media, email, online banking, investment, gaming and any other virtual profile you can think of. Include your login information, such as usernames and passwords, and encryption data.
—PUT SOMEONE IN CHARGE: Tell your estate planner where to find that list and give that person explicit instructions for how you want the information handled. Do they hit the delete button? Or do they notify the company to memorialize your site?
Don’t ask this decision-maker to commit a crime by logging in to your accounts, but if the law changes in the future this step could make it more likely your wishes are fulfilled.
—WILL POWER: If you have a will, it’s best to include your digital assets there. Some online information has real financial value, and it’s good to cover all your assets. A McAffee survey found that on average Americans believe the financial and emotional value of their digital assets are worth about $55,000.
—HOPE FOR THE BEST: Sometimes, you can do everything right and still not get the results you want. Until there is more legal clarification, you just have to do everything you can and hope that it works out.