Advertisement
retirement

Leaving Your Digital Legacy

Between Facebook, iTunes, email and digital banking and investment accounts, most of us lead pretty active lives online. Do you have a plan for what will happen to all your passwords and accounts when you pass away?

My mom, who passed away a few years ago, was a very careful and meticulous person who kept a notebook with all of her online account passwords. Mom was also a Morse code operator in the Royal Air Force during WWII, so all of her passwords were in code. I was lucky: She told me about the book and her codes. If she hadn’t, finding and deciphering her notes would have taken a very long time and could have held up important estate and financial planning tasks.

Like my mom, most of us live part of our lives online today. We have email and social media accounts. We purchase digital books and music. We pay our bills and do our banking online. Many virtual items cannot be left to heirs through our wills because we don’t actually own them; we just have licenses to view/read/listen to them. Many online accounts, like email and social media sites, don’t belong to us either. The businesses that administer them control what happens when our contracts are terminated by death.

Advertisement - Article continues below

So, how do we prepare to leave our digital legacies?

List all of your online accounts.

These might include:

  • Email accounts
  • Financial accounts and utilities, including checking or savings accounts, retirement accounts, mortgages, life insurance, gas and electric, phone or cable bills and tax-preparation services
  • Social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Music, photos or books stored online
  • Websites, blogs and licensed domain names
  • Seller’s accounts on eBay, Etsy or Amazon
  • Any online communities or listservs where you have been active

Make plans regarding what should happen to those accounts.

Do you want someone special to have access to your iTunes library? To your photos? Do you want certain emails saved and printed, or would you rather have the accounts purged? Would you prefer your social media accounts be deleted or turned into “memorial” accounts when possible? Would you like someone to post a final status update after your death?

Choose a “digital executor.”

Let that person know where you keep your passwords (and if they need to be decoded). Talk to your executor, but also leave detailed instructions on where and how to find passwords, user names, etc. You may be able to leave virtual items you actually own (e.g., photos you took, music you bought) to people in your will, so make sure your executor has all the information needed to access and download them. You may also want to consider “vaulting” your digital goods with a company that puts all of your digital information (including passwords) onto one online platform.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Whatever you decide, do make a decision. Your digital legacy is important. Make sure your heirs can “crack the codes” to access it.

About the Author

Ken Moraif, CFP®

CEO and Senior Adviser, Retirement Planners of America

Ken Moraif, CFP, is CEO and senior adviser at Retirement Planners of America, a Dallas-based wealth management and investment firm with over $4.3 billion in AUM and serving over 8,000 households (as of May 2019). He is also the host of the radio show "Money Matters with Ken Moraif," which has offered listeners retirement, investing and personal finance advice since 1996.

Advertisement

Most Popular

12 Tax Deadlines for July 15 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)
tax deadline

12 Tax Deadlines for July 15 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)

Between due dates for paying estimated taxes, IRA or HSA contributions, and other deadlines, there's more to do by July 15 than just filing your feder…
July 14, 2020
65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On
stocks

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On

These 65 Dividend Aristocrats are an elite group of dividend stocks that have reliably increased their annual payouts every year for at least a quarte…
July 8, 2020
Tax Day 2020: When's the Last Day to File Taxes?
tax deadline

Tax Day 2020: When's the Last Day to File Taxes?

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 tax deadline was pushed back to give taxpayers (and tax preparers) more time to file returns.
July 14, 2020

Recommended

Wealthy Families Need More Than a Financial Succession Plan: They Need a Process
family savings

Wealthy Families Need More Than a Financial Succession Plan: They Need a Process

A true succession plan is about much more than an estate plan. It’s about fostering open communications and getting your family on the same page about…
July 15, 2020
Saver's Credit: A Retirement Tax Break for the Middle Class
Tax Breaks

Saver's Credit: A Retirement Tax Break for the Middle Class

Your retirement contributions could be the key to a lower tax bill.
July 9, 2020
Avoid Blindly Following Random Benchmarks on the Road to Retirement
retirement planning

Avoid Blindly Following Random Benchmarks on the Road to Retirement

Unless the benchmark is relevant to your personal plan, it could steer you into taking a wrong turn.
July 8, 2020
Where Should You Retire?
retirement planning

Where Should You Retire?

This week, our Your Money's Worth podcast host Ryan Ermey interviews co-host Sandy Block about her recent story about the best retirement destinations…
July 7, 2020