In the past week, The New York Times has run two stories on two different angles of our modern-day lives.
The first story posted on May 24th Leaving Behind the Digital Keys to Financial Lives discusses the real life issue created that is not being addressed in current financial or estate planning. Our financial lives are online – we have paperless statements, automated bill payments as well as credit cards on file with several of our treasured online services. If you have not documented these, your loved ones would have no clue on how to access this information. This goes beyond the roster of accounts and includes the online access codes and details with those accounts. This is the prime problem I created the MemoryBanc Register to solve — it helps individuals catalog and share this information if it is ever needed.
What most American’s fail to recognize is that until our 80s, we are more likely to suffer a disability than die. You may very well be on this planet and need to have someone in your life access and manage your affairs for you – if even only temporarily.
The second story is from May 25th Bequeathing the Keys to Your Digital Afterlife which deals with the issue of all those online assets, like photographs or even your blog. Google is the first to set up a provision for this and hopefully, the other online firms will follow. Hoped.
At minimum, you should have documented your usernames and pass codes and told someone you trust where to find them. If you have done that, I urge you to go back and note which ones pull from credit cards or other online payment accounts. Help those who would step in to help by at least organizing your online estate.
A more robust exploration of this topic was done in The New York Times (2011) in Cyberspace When You’re Dead. It provides a variety of examples exploring both the impact of being able to continue to access the accounts to the added grief to those who lost access. While it does discuss some online options to protect your digital legacy — I continue to beat the drum to organize all of your materials in one place!
In a related story, several states seem to be discussing how to deal with digital estates. A New Hampshire bill would give all access rights to the executor. I have talked to several Estate Attorneys who are now working with clients to identify a “digital executor” who may be different from the traditional executor role. The same issues will be faced by both executors — where are all your personal, financial, online and household records and details?
Have you ever had to view the profile of a friend on Facebook or LinkedIn that passed? It’s disconcerting. Even worse, my husband told me about spam emails he’s getting from a friend who died over a year ago. Apparently the spammers have reached a new low. It won’t take you more than 20 minutes to create a quick list that could mean a lot to those around you. Preached.