Estate planning today includes not only who will inherit our worldly goods when we die—but also what will happen to our digital legacies. A recent article in US News, "Passwords and Powers of Attorney: Your Digital Estate Planning Options," reports that there are new companies springing up to help us make plans and gather all the information our heirs will need in one place.
These services provide prompts to encourage users to think about issues they haven't put in writing, like what music we would like playing in our final hours.
There are several companies that let you create a digital repository of your will, health care directives, funeral wishes, family photos, plans for your pet, desires for your Facebook page, and what you'd like to have in your obituary. You can input information now that you want your family to find when you die or even share the information with family now.
You should talk about end-of-life issues with your family, record your wishes and then make it easy for family members to find them when they're needed. You can choose whom you wish to see specific information and whether you want to share it now or not until after you've passed on.
The goal is to make this as easy as possible for heirs by having this information all in one place. These sites provide places to upload wills, trusts, health care directives, powers of attorney and appraisals of your valuable items. You can also record the location of notarized and signed copies of documents and the contact information for your estate planning attorney.
Charges vary with these services, and they all have options for sharing all the aspects of your digital life, from passwords to bank accounts to the message you want sent to your Twitter followers after you've passed away.
Everyone's situation is different and while these services are a useful tool, no online service can replace the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney who understands your specific situation. You won't know what you're not getting. No matter how good it is, an online program only gives you what you ask for. There are likely to be areas of your estate that call for basic planning documents and ones that require more complex planning.
Reference: US News (December 3, 2015) "Passwords and Powers of Attorney: You're Digital Estate Planning Options"