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How to ensure your 'digital estate' is taken care of after death

By Bill Gephardt | Posted - Jan. 17, 2014 at 10:16 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Your digital life — from online bank accounts to frequent flier miles to social media — will likely outlive you. And with the fast changes in technology, it's important to have a plan on our estates.

Many people check their bank accounts online, review online trading accounts, catch up on emails or browse Facebook and Twitter nearly every day. Many even buy music or movies online. But what happens to all that stuff when we die?

"We don't think about it, or try not to think about it," said financial planner Shane Stewart.

Nevertheless, Stewart said everyone needs to address it. He recommends separating the digital estate into two groups: personal and financial. It may even be helpful to designate a separate "digital executor" for each group.

"It might be well to pick a family member or friend that can go into my Facebook and close it down, or go into my Twitter or my social media accounts," Stewart said. "But I might not want them handling my money."

It might be well to pick a family member or friend that can go into my Facebook and close it down, or go into my Twitter or my social media accounts. But I might not want them handling my money.

–Shane Stewart

The individual handling the financial estate will need to have access to the accounts; lists of usernames, passwords and security questions need to be constantly updated.

"It needs someone to know how to get in there and be authorized to handle it immediately without too much delay," Stewart said.

That means all the information for your digital accounts should be in one place.

"I've seen people put them on a flash drive — all the passwords and those type of things — and then lock them up," Stewart added.

Those files on your computer — music, movies and books — need to be backed up and stored. But access to those digital assets — where they are and how to access them on the computer — need to be given to the "digital executor."

However, Stewart said to be sure to check terms of agreement before setting all plans. Some media stories, like Apple's iTunes, will say the user bought a license for an individual song that was downloaded, but that it can't be legally passed on to someone, even after death.

Bill Gephardt


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