Digital Will Executors Explained

Jun 4, 2022
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You've likely thought about creating (or already written) a will, the legal document outlining your wishes for how you'd like your remaining property distributed to your heirs after you pass away. But have you ever thought about what happens to your digital property when you're no longer here?

Your emails, Instagram posts, and Facebook updates are a few examples of what may be covered under a digital will. And if your income is generated online in any way, you have even more reason to put a digital will into place. Digital wills may not be your first thought regarding estate planning, but having one in place is an important step in covering your digital property. 

Likewise, appointing a digital executor is a critical step that almost anyone with an online presence should consider. 

The role of a digital executor

A digital executor works alongside the will executor of your estate and makes your wishes known regarding all digital aspects of your life. A digital executor could be the same person you appoint to handle the physical contents of your estate. But, as digital assets continue to increase, you may find it beneficial to have another person oversee your digital will. 

It's up to you how much responsibility you want a digital executor to have. Appointing one can ensure your digital assets get passed on to the appropriate people. It also creates a plan for your loved ones to gain access or make decisions regarding your digital property.

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Tasks of a digital executor

This role may vary from person to person, depending on what type of digital property you have. Tasks may include:

  • Archiving all content you've created, including posts, photos, videos, and files
  • Continuation or deletion of online accounts
  • Closing out subscription services and social media accounts
  • Informing online communities about your death
  • Transferring services that generate income, such as websites or online courses, to the appropriate heirs
  • Handling digital currencies, such as Bitcoin

These are only a few of the tasks involved and could change depending on your property, such as if you have rights to song lyrics or own multiple cryptocurrencies, which makes appointing a digital executor even more critical. 

Before you get started

Before you appoint a digital executor, make a list of all your digital assets. This will be helpful to both you and whoever you appoint, so you'll know all digital categories are covered. 

Another important step is to write down all the website usernames and passwords you want the digital executor to access. Be sure to keep this updated as you change your passwords over time, too.

Lastly, it's essential to continuously back up your files to cloud storage and a physical device, such as a hard drive. In doing so, you know there are records of your important documents, such as account statements, insurance policies, or birth certificates, making it easier for executors of your will to access them. 

Remember, you can control how much access you'd like a digital executor to have to your files. As you're recording and documenting your various digital assets, it's ideal to consider how complex each asset may be and who would be the optimal person for the role.  

How to name a digital executor

Naming a digital executor may require an extra step or two since it's a relatively new concept in estate planning. If you're creating a new will online, you need to include the appointee on a digital executor form. Not all online forms have sections specifically for digital executors. If you want to cover this aspect, but your form doesn't list it, you'll need to make additional inquiries with the online company or consult an attorney.

The best practice is to work with an estate planning attorney and include the name of a digital executor for your last will and testament. Not only does this ensure your wishes are made known, but an attorney will advise you on your state laws regarding digital wills and how fully recognized the digital executor is.

Appointing a digital executor may seem like one of many tasks you'll get to "someday," but putting a plan in place sooner rather than later can keep confusion and discourse at bay should the worst happen. Your last will and testament for physical and digital property is the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out. 

Another essential part of estate planning is ensuring your life insurance needs are in place for your loved ones. Ethos Life has a helpful guide for both life insurance and wills, and you can contact us at any time for a free online quote.