Most people can get by with a simple estate plan consisting of a power-of-attorney and a simple will or sweetheart wills. That’s fine but what happens to computer records and social media accounts when someone dies? Nothing! That’s the problem. You may leave your family with a mess in the form of online records and other things that are very difficult to deal with. There is a solution. Plan ahead!
Your executor or POA should have access to to the personal information they will need to carry out your plans. These items include:
- Instructions in case of death or disability, such as burial or living-will wishes;
- Important contacts: who to contact at your workplace, clubs, etc., name and telephone for your lawyer, accountant, Will executor, and insurance agents;
- Locations of valuables and important papers, wills, passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates, and any other legal documents;
- Recurring-bills details such as when bills are due and how they’re paid (autopay acct or where to send a check);
- Financial account details like retirement and investment accounts, insurance, bank accounts, and credit cards.
- Important logins or security codes including website logins, computer password, your phone PIN, the code to the fireproof safe, etc.
You can create a password-protected spreadsheet that contains this information.
You should also consider setting up dead-man switches and assign custody or successors for your digital accounts A dead-man switch is a security feature on trains that requires operators to hold a handle on a control board so that if they let go, the switch applies the emergency brakes.
A dead-man switch can be a setting that notifies loved ones and can disable your accounts if you fail to respond to prompts. This feature is especially useful for people who live alone, because you want others to notice you’re gone as soon as possible.
Some online accounts have an “inactive account” setting to either delete your data or share your accounts information with someone you trust after a period of inactivity. Pick a person to manage your social media accounts to either preserve your memory or delete those accounts. Most social media accounts offer options for enabling your loved ones to manage them, but you’ll need to set this up before you die, of course.
After you’ve done all the above, you should share the details with your family (you can also share select information in the password manager with a power of attorney or a trusted friend). For security, many client provide their attorney with a CD, DVD or flash drive with the data, so that it is not found in the home and no one can get to it without a safeguard, but the right person would have no trouble getting what they need.