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Digital Legacy Plan? What’s That?

Simply: What is in your digital estate?  What remains of us online after we are gone? Who has access to online banking, passwords, photos — all of our personal and professional legacy — when we are no longer able to manage our online presence. 

This post is a follow-up to one on digital downsizing (see Digital Downsizing: Tackling the Digital Eyesore).

Canadian Angela Crocker has once again written a short readable practical guide to a necessary part of estate planning.

Any of us who have recently served as a power of attorney or executor for someone who had an online presence may know of what I speak.  Lawyers are now raising questions of digital estates as they help clients prepare wills. 

When Crocker speaks of digital legacy, she is referring to our online presence in everything from online banking, websites we manage, email and databases, storage solutions (Dropbox and I-Cloud), social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), shopping accounts (E-Bay and Amazon), loyalty programs (airmiles), entertainment accounts (Netflix), events and tickets (Ticketmaster), and for some —  academic interfaces. 

"Oh, come on! No way!” said a middle-aged friend as we chatted about her online presence. “Not another thing to do! I can’t handle this! ”  

Just thinking about the breadth of our online presence can be overwhelming. 

Here are two steps to make this easier:

  • Step 1: Take five minutes to list your passwords and pop that list in a will or estate file, or in your safety deposit box. Breathe. Relax. Get on with your day. Repeat each day until you have listed all of your passwords.

  • Step 2: Make a long term plan to give thought to your online presence and what you would like your digital estate/legacy to be. Perhaps that’s a job for a winter evening!  Your Power of Attorney and/or your Executor will be eternally grateful!

I’ll remind my friend again this winter! 

In the meantime, I encouraged her to think about her parents and their active lives on the internet. Did they have passwords listed somewhere?

For those interested in this helpful read, Angela Crocker’s book can be found in public libraries and in bookstores. The full title is:  Digital Legacy Plan: A Guide to the Practical Elements of Your Digital Life Before You Die