How to Prepare Your Digital Assets for Death

Do you want to leave your digital data in the hands of someone you may not trust?

Mar 9, 2014 at 10:20AM


Photo: Jason A. Howie

You've written your will, reviewed your life insurance policy, and taken care of your power-of-attorney documents — but what about preparing your digital estate? From your online bank accounts to social media profiles, your digital life is likely to survive a lot longer than you are. That's why it's important to have a plan in place to take care of your digital assets.

A recent survey of 600 consumers and business owners conducted on behalf of the legal services website Rocket Lawyer found that 63 percent of people don't know what happens to their digital assets when they pass away. Do you want to leave your digital data in the hands of someone you may not trust?

Most Americans have digital assets like email accounts or profiles on social media networks. Some even have blogs or online trading accounts. But there is no federal legislation governing what should happen to one's digital property upon death. Many states rely on the manager of the asset, such as Facebook or Gmail, to determine what should happen to your digital property. Recently, a few states have passed laws to protect your digital assets upon death. If you have questions about how your local laws protect your digital property, it's best to check with a licensed estate attorney.

To help prepare your digital estate for death, follow these steps:

Take inventory
First, make a detailed list of what your digital assets are, just like you would do with any estate plan. It might be easiest to divide your digital assets into categories, such as personal and financial. Among the digital assets you should take inventory of are: email accounts, social media accounts, websites you own or have accounts with, cloud storage services, frequent flyer miles, songs and videos, and medical records online. Also, be sure to take inventory of all the digital devices you own. In terms of your financial accounts, take inventory of your banking, stock trading, credit card, and shopping accounts. Any service you utilize that involves online financial transactions should also be included.

To make the inventory process easier, you should keep a detailed log of the places you have accounts, including information like your username and password. NOTE: Be sure to store this information somewhere safe. You do not want this data to get in the wrong hands. Store the data in safe deposit box, on a USB drive that you lock away, or a website like Legacy Locker or SecureSafe, which securely stores all of your data in a single place.

Choose someone to handle the management of your digital estate. The person should be able to easily navigate media and the Web (meaning they need to be technologically savvy) — and also be someone you can trust. You might need to name multiple digital executors because you might be able to trust a family member to handle your personal accounts, for instance, but not your financial data. Be sure to name your digital executor in your will.

Note that whoever is managing your digital estate will need access to your online accounts, including username and passwords. You might consider giving your digital executor power of attorney. Be sure that your digital executor(s) has easy access to each of your digital accounts upon your passing.

Write out what you want to happen to your digital assets
While your will likely details what you want to do with your financial accounts, your non-financial digital assets still need to be addressed. Create a detailed plan of what you want to happen to each digital account or property you have and give your digital executor access to this document upon your death.

NOTE: Some user agreements or laws could prevent someone else from accessing your online account. If in doubt, check the terms of service set by the manager of the digital property.

Leave a digital message
If you'd like to leave a digital message upon your passing, be sure to have it written out or recorded so that your digital executor can publish it. Think about what you want to say, so that your words can provide comfort to the loved ones you're leaving behind.

Prepare your retirement
They said it couldn't be done. But David Gardner has proved them wrong time, and time, and time again with stock returns like 926%, 2,239%, and 4,371%. In fact, just recently one of his favorite stocks became a 100-bagger. And he's ready to do it again. You can uncover his scientific approach to crushing the market and his carefully chosen six picks for ultimate growth instantly, because he's making this premium report free for you today. Click here now for access.

This article originally appeared on MyBankTracker

The Motley Fool recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers