For centuries, wills and estate plans have dictated how a person wishes his or her estate to be handled after passing away. However, with the advent of the Internet age, people must now consider how they wish to handle their digital estate in addition to their physical one. More and more people are now naming a digital executor in addition to a traditional executor whose sole responsibility is to distribute and manage a person’s digital estate after they die.
What Does a Digital Executor do?
A digital executor’s job can vary depending on the types of things you have in your digital estate and how you want them handled. Some tasks performed by digital executors include the following:
- Archiving personal files, photos, videos, and other content
- Deleting files, folders, or hard drives
- Maintaining online accounts, which may include paying for hosting services
- Closing online accounts, including social media, subscription services, or paid accounts
- Transferring accounts to heirs
- Collecting and transferring online money or usable credits to heirs
- Transferring any income-producing digital content to heirs, including websites, blogs, affiliated accounts, etc.
- Informing the online community of your passing
A digital executor can also maintain social media accounts after your passing, such as memorializing a Facebook page or Instagram account. They can also pay any online debts and handle any other matters of your digital estate. It is important to consider who you want handling your digital accounts and whether that person is the same as the traditional executor you want or have for your estate plan.
How to Name a Digital Executor
You can name a digital executor in your regular estate plan just as you name a traditional executor to an estate. Sometimes, these are the same person and in other situations two different people are named. When two people are named it is important to distinguish the responsibilities of each executor, so they know who is accountable for what, especially if some assets or issues overlap. In states that do not legally recognize digital executors, you can name co-executors to an estate and divide responsibilities into traditional and digital as a way to still have a separate digital executor in your estate plan.
If you already have an estate plan drafted with an attorney without a digital executor named, you can still have one added to the estate. Simply have your lawyer draft a codicil to the will that names a digital executor or co-executor, and it is as binding to the estate plan as the original will. Adding a codicil is also cheaper and faster than rewriting an entire estate plan to incorporate a digital executor. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to review your plans and advise you on the best way to add a digital executor to your estate.