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Digital Will: How to Protect your Online Presence

Writing a will is almost always associated with passing down money, heirlooms and property to loved ones when you pass. But now, with so many of our assets being online, your will should protect more than physical assets. To help protect your online presence, you need what’s called a digital will.

What is a digital will?

A digital will is a document that tells your loved ones how to handle your digital presence and assets after you pass away. Digital wills can include the usernames and passwords to your digital assets and who you choose to take responsibility for the account.

Digital assets in a traditional Will

All the property you own, you can distribute through a valid will or trust. However, the question of who owns what in digital environments is tricky. Digital assets include social media, email, blogs, URLs and more.

Your ownership of this media after death will depend on the terms of use agreement when you sign up for the online service. For example, Facebook allows you to nominate a legacy contact, and that person becomes responsible for your account after you pass away.

Although it makes sense to leave usernames and passwords behind for loved ones, it’s just not that easy depending on the terms of use agreement. Of course, the biggest question is whether you actually own the asset or if it’s just a license during your lifetime.

Learn more on how to handle social accounts after someone dies.

How to prepare a digital will

If you want to transfer rights to assets such as a domain name or a website, it’s advisable to account for these in your formal will. Here are a few steps to create your digital plan:

1. Make a list of your digital assets

Create a list of your digital accounts, including social media, online services, email accounts, blogs and photo-sharing platforms. You should also include any accounts that automatically withdraw from your account.

2. Create your digital will

In your digital will, outline what you want to happen with each account. For example, you may want your Facebook page memorialised, but you want to delete your LinkedIn profile permanently. Make sure to select someone you trust as the executor of your digital assets.

Where to store your digital will

Whether a traditional will or a digital will, the document is only useful if your executor knows where to find it. For example, in some states, you can use a digital register to record your accounts, usernames, passwords, and requests to permanently delete or close online accounts.

However, most online services don’t allow you to transfer a username and password. To help mitigate the risk of your loved ones not gaining access, you can store digital accounts and passwords in encrypted password management software that’s accessible after you pass away by someone you nominate.

Similarly, if you hold cryptocurrency, you can use a digital wallet to important information about these accounts. If you store the instructions in a safe box, make sure your executor or loved ones knows how to access the safe box.

Protect your digital accounts

When in doubt, your online digital accounts are assets. It’s up to you to determine whether you own those assets, if the platform allows you to nominate someone to take over the account or if you’re allowed to pass it on after you pass away.

While they may not feel like an asset because they aren’t physical, including them in a digital will with clear instructions can help ease the burden on your loved ones during an emotional time. Learn more about how to start making your online will.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting or tax advice.

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