Where there’s a will

Ensuring your digital footprint is taken care of when you’re gone can be taken care of with a digital will. Kirstin Mills tells how it’s done.

What happens to your Facebook page after you die? What about your Gmail account? Or your iPad or computer?

Do any of your family or friends know what you want to happen to these things when you die?

Chances are that the answer is no. That’s where a digital will comes in. It’s a slightly misleading name because it’s not about bequeathing your assets, but about ensuring your digital footprint is taken care of when you’re gone – accounts are closed, data shared with family and/or deleted, funds taken care of.

If you are the technologically savvy one in the household then instructions on how to stop the TV recording your favourite show or the heat pump coming on automatically will be helpful.

You need to start by doing an audit of everything digital in your life. If something has a user name and password, then you need to think about including it in your digital will.

Legacy policies are now common for lots of services so look at their terms and conditions to see what their policy is – some require you to name someone ahead of time so check this when developing your digital will. Facebook, for example, allows you to nominate a legacy contact who can follow your wishes if you die. This might mean archiving, deleting or memorialising your account. Identity theft could be a threat if the account is just left.

Below are some ideas to get you thinking about what to include in your digital will.

Financial

  • Bank accounts
  • Digital currency, eg Bitcoin
  • Investments
  • Loyalty accounts, eg: FlyBuys, OneCard, Air NZ, credit card points, hotel points
  • Paypal
  • Shopping and auction accounts

Non-financial

  • Communication accounts eg: Skype, Messenger, WhatsApp
  • Email accounts
  • Social media
  • Voicemail (eg: PIN)
  • Your blog
  • Subscriptions which may be paid automatically if you have a paid account
  • Cloud-based storage, eg: Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive
  • Domain names you own
  • Gaming accounts
  • Online backups

Other

  • Password keepers
  • Other online accounts – eg photo sharing or photobook sites, genealogy sites
  • Spotify, Netflix etc

Then there is access to the physical things you can actually touch:

  • Computer
  • E-book readers
  • Phone
  • Tablet

Once you have collated information about the above you need to appoint a digital executor who will take care of it all should the worst happen. You need to leave that executor instructions about what you want done with your digital life.

It might be that you want your Facebook account deleted. But it could also be that you want someone to archive the posts before deletion, so your family has a record of your posts. Or you might want the account memorialised and left open for a while so people can share memories of you.

While you are going through this process, you may want to think of anything else that might be useful for people to know when you die and that might not be digital or to do with user names and passwords. If you take care of all the bills – or you live alone – then it could be a good idea to leave a list of all the regular bills (power, gas, phone etc) that someone might need to deal with after you are gone. This is especially important if bills come into your email account rather than your letterbox.

If you are the technologically savvy one in the household then instructions on how to stop the TV recording your favourite show or the heat pump coming on automatically will be helpful. Even the Wi-Fi password might be of use. All of this makes what is a stressful time a little easier on those who are left.

Your digital will can be left with your lawyer, or at least stored securely with instructions left with more than one person about where to find it.