October 16, 2022
Your Digital Estate Plan
By Paul Miloe, CRPS®
If you have completed your traditional estate plan (Will, Trust, Directives, etc.), you’ve taken a big step for the benefit of your family. After you finalized the plan by ensuring personal assets were retitled under your Trust, confirming your beneficiaries are current, and your durable powers are set (healthcare, financial, attorney), you may think you’re all set, but we’re living in a digital age. Did your traditional estate plan have provisions for your digital estate? Items like your phone, social media accounts, email and more, often “live” on after you’re gone and it’s wise to consider these digital assets as part of your overall estate plan.
Fortunately, some phone providers and social media platforms are making this planning easier. For example, on an iPhone you can create a “Legacy Contact.” [Go to: Settings > Your Name (Apple ID area) > Passwords and Security > Legacy Contact.] At your passing, this contact can access Apple’s legacy site https://digital-legacy.apple.com/, log on, and upload your death certificate. After being verified by Apple, the Legacy Contact will have partial access to your phone to help ensure you haven’t left any loose ends. The access includes things like photos, messages, notes, files, and device back-ups, but excludes Apple ID purchases like movies, music, books, and subscriptions. In the absence of a Legacy Contact, Apple currently requires a court order for access to be granted to your Apple ID.
Facebook also has a Legacy Contact of their own. [Visit: Settings & Privacy > Settings > Personal and account info > Account ownership and control > Memorialization settings > Choose Legacy Contact.] Once set, this contact can oversee your Facebook account after you’ve passed or opt to have your account deleted. Facebook will require a copy of your death certificate to complete the process. At present, Instagram does not offer this feature, but will accept a death certificate to memorialize your account (which will then have “Remembering” shown next to your profile name). Once set, no changes can be made to the Instagram account.
On Google, they have a setting called the Inactive Account Manager where you set a period of inactivity for your account and then choose what will happen. To set, go to https://myaccount.google.com/ [Data & Privacy > More Options > Make a plan for your digital legacy.] You can then set the period of time before the account goes inactive, who would be notified, and what can be shared. Alternatively, you can just set that your account is deleted after a set period of inactivity.
Other phone providers, social media platforms, and internet sites may offer similar legacy services. Consider the sites you use the most/have the most active content on, and get your digital legacy set as part of your broader estate plan.
Note: For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor. Neither Cetera Advisor Networks LLC nor any of its representatives may give legal or tax advice.