Planning and Managing the Virtual Part of Your Estate, Part II

To pick up where we left off, here is part II of this four part series.

Provide for Access

We are often told never to write down our passwords and to make them secure by choosing ones with letters and numbers and special characters that no one will be able to guess. That is exactly the opposite of what you need to do to make sure your digital assets are handled appropriately when you die.

Make the password list, and make sure it is stored securely – maybe create a document that is kept with your will.

Provide Instructions

Your digital manager needs to be told which accounts to maintain, for how long, and which to close. Decisions made for some accounts may be different for others. You may want your websites to stay open for six months, then be closed, and some email accounts closed without delay.

If you are working on a long term project such as a book, you may want to make a list of “do-not-delete” files or folders.

Those thousand songs you bought online are worth a thousand dollars or more. You might want to add them to the no-delete list.

Give the Appropriate Authority

The larger the digital estate, the more you might need to name someone in your will to handle your digital assets, maybe even making that person a co-executor limited to handling online assets. That way the co-executor in charge of your digital estate will appear on probate certificates. Without such documented authority, your digital estate manager may meet stiff resistance when trying to deal with third parties.

As for the digital estate manager, Kennedy gives some good advice:

  • Get technical help when you need it.
  • Use contact lists, Facebook or other social network sites to notify friends of the funeral date.
  • Change all passwords as soon as possible.
  • Do not start closing inexpensive accounts right away. Websites are especially cheap to maintain and expensive to reconstruct.
  • When deleting from drives, use a program to clean up unused space. Use several passes to make a thorough job of it. Deleting a file makes it inaccessible to the average user, but it remains accessible to motivated hackers.
  • Invest in two USB hard drives. Transfer all computer files onto one drive and from that drive transfer all the “good stuff” onto the other. When done, wipe the first USB hard drive clean.
  • Make copies of websites before taking them down.
  • Edit all shopping accounts by deleting all credit card information.
  • When it comes to photos, videos and old email, lean more to saving than to deleting.

Until next week,
— Patti Spencer