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Digital World Estate Planning

November 5th 2019 - Betty Anne Flynn

As we all know, one of the main components of Estate Planning is preparing a Will so that one’s estate is distributed according to one’s wishes.  Gone are the days where a trail of paperwork leads an executor to the deceased’s bank accounts, credit cards or bills.  I mean, perhaps there is still a paper trail of some stuff, but more and more of this information is obtained through online accounts or from electronic devices.  And most of it is password protected. 

 

Estate Planning has a new and vital component, which is ensuring that you pass along information to your executor(s) allowing them access to your digital world after your passing.  Let’s take a look at some examples: 

Banking

Everything from your chequing account, to investments, loans, credit cards and bills may be online, with no paper records if you signed up for internet banking and statements.  Your executor may miss distributing some of your assets if they have no idea these assets exist.  Or they may miss paying off some of your debt.  Making a list of all such accounts, account numbers, and passwords will be necessary for your executor to administer your estate.

Electronic Devices

Many people own several electronic devices that are password protected, such as smart phones, computers and tablets.  These devices may contain valuable files, records, family photos and videos, maybe even business documents that your executor and/or family members will need to access.  Ensure that you have a procedure in place so that the password is made accessible to the appropriate person after your passing.

Email, Websites & Social Media

What are your wishes with respect to your email account, website, and social media accounts (such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram) after you pass?  Do you want these accounts deleted?  Do you want someone to announce a message to be posted?  Do you want an automatic email reply to be sent out?  Do you want the accounts to remain in perpetuity?  You may want to provide your executor with your wishes, along with passwords so they can execute your wishes.

As you can see, there is a lot to think about in this expanding digital world of ours and it certainly has a big impact on Estate Planning.  You should consider making a list of all digital accounts and passwords for your executor and let your executor know where to access the list after your passing.  You can add this list to your file containing your  Will, or save it on a USB stick to be given to the Executor.  Ironically, if you save the list on your computer, you’ll have to ensure your executor is aware of the file as well as the relevant password.