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So much of what we do these days leaves a digital footprint. Whereas in past times, a person’s files, pictures, receipts, business records, and other documents might be collected by family members in cardboard boxes upon their death, now when a person dies, they may leave all of these records in digital files, indefinitely accessible on the internet. This leaves your legacy and financial records potentially exposed on the web, and in many cases internet service providers, social media sites, and retailers have policies that prevent your loved ones from taking action to close your accounts and/or remove your records.
This is where a digital executor comes in. Under California law, a traditional executor of an estate does not have the power to access your online accounts to update or even close them. In order to prevent your online presence from continuing on without you after you’re gone, you need to take steps to appoint a digital executor who will protect your digital estate when you’re no longer here to manage it yourself.
Naming a Digital Executor
A digital executor is someone you appoint to manage your digital assets after you die. Your digital executor does not replace your traditional executor, although the same person can play both roles if you so choose. When you name your digital executor, you will need to provide that person with: 1) a list of your digital accounts; 2) instructions for how to access them, including usernames and passwords; and 3) guidance for how you want each account to be handled when you’re gone.
With this information in hand, your digital executor will be able to officially wrap up all of your affairs that may not be addressed in your traditional estate planning documents, including:
- Email accounts
- Social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
- Retail accounts, such as Amazon, iTunes, or eBay
- Blogs or personal webpages
- Online payment accounts, such as Paypal or Venmo
- Bank, investment, or other financial accounts that you manage online
- Utility and other bills that you pay online
- Online data storage sites, such as Google Docs or Dropbox
How an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
At the Christopher B. Johnson Law Office, we have over 18 years of experience providing estate planning services to the people of Pasadena, and we are well-versed in handling the new estate planning needs of the modern digital age. If you have questions about naming a digital executor or other aspects of digital estate planning, we’re here to help. Contact us today to discuss your situation.