Digital Will Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide 
One big consequence of living in what is being called “the digital age” is that people now need digital wills to protect their digital assets.
If you have a Facebook account … if you use online banking … if you are active with other social media like Instagram and Twitter … if you have an online payment account like PayPal … you now need a digital will to ensure your digital assets are properly managed after your passing.
In this short guide, we are going to take a look at what a digital will is, why it is needed today especially and how to best get one quickly, easily and inexpensively.
So let’s get started …
What is a Digital Will?
To put it simply a digital will is a document that protects your digital assets and provides instructions for how they should be taken care of upon your death.
Twenty or thirty years ago a digital will wasn’t needed but as technology has progressed and more people have gone online it has now become practically a necessity.
That’s because people everywhere are using the Internet. They use it to read articles. They use it to pay bills. They use it find love and to communicate with friends and relatives.
Why Are More People Getting Digital Wills?
In fact, Wikipedia says that “in 2015, the International Telecommunication Union estimated about 3.2 billion people, or almost half of the world's population, would be online by the end of the year. Of them, about 2 billion would be from developing countries, including 89 million from least developed countries.”
In other words location is becoming less and less of an issue as we evolve into a more global society. And those Internet usage numbers have only escalated in the years since that report.
At the same time that more people are flocking to the Internet, more people have also begun using social media.
Zephoria.com reports that “Facebook estimated that 2.7 billion people use Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger each month and more than 2.1 billion people use at least one of the Facebook family of services every day on average.”
Theverge.com reported in February of 2019 that Twitter now has 126 million daily users, up from 115 million one year ago.
Meanwhile statista.com reports that “In June 2018, Instagram had reached one billion monthly active users, up from 800 million in September 2017. The app is one of the most popular social networks worldwide.”
In other words, as the Internet continues to grow each day, it means that there are more and more people with valuable digital assets that need to be considered when it comes time to plan for the future.
We understand that nobody likes to talk about death but it’s a conversation everyone has to have at one point or another. Now having a digital will, or how to deal with one’s digital assets, must be included in that conversation.
Why is a Digital Will Needed?
The bad news is that a lot of people these days are continuing to die without considering what will happen with their digital accounts, or to put it another way, without considering what will happen with their digital legacy.
This is a problem because loved ones often aren’t able to access the digital accounts no matter how hard they try. This can prove to be very frustrating … and also heartbreaking.
The even worse news is that these digital accounts are often hacked which can put the deceased estate at risk for paying for any losses that result from those hacks.
Nobody wants to put their loved ones through additional pain, suffering and financial stress if they can help it. That’s why some very enterprising individuals have created the digital will as the solution to this common problem.
Now people can protect their digital legacies and ensure they don’t cause additional pain and confusion for their digital heirs.
So How Does a Digital Will Differ from a Regular Will?
Digital wills are for digital assets. For instance, they might include passwords for social media accounts and log-in information for PayPal and online bank accounts.
The can also include such things as:
- Email addresses
- Banking information
- Social media details
- Digital collection information
- And more
Without a digital will loved ones are often lost and don’t know how to proceed. Another way to look at it would be to say that a digital will preserves your digital afterlife.
A regular will, on the other hand, is a document that sets forth your wishes for how you would like your property and other assets handled upon your passing.
For instance, it might give instructions for how your money should be disbursed from your savings and investment accounts.
The bottom line is what these two wills cover is what makes the big difference between a regular will and a digital will.
The fact that a regular last will covers physical property and not digital assets is why the digital will ended up being created – it is a 21st century tool for a 21st century problem.
But How are Digital and Regular Wills Similar?
These two different types of wills actually do have things in common.
For instance, they both set forth how you want certain property handled or disbursed after your death – only one covers digital assets and one covers physical assets.
They also both can include the designation of an executor who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions detailed in the will.
In the digital will, the executor would be responsible for accessing and/or closing accounts or for providing passwords to others who have been designated to take over a digital account.
How Do You Go About Setting Up a Digital Will?
The first step would be to decide if you want to have a lawyer draw up your digital will or if you would prefer to use an online do-it-yourself will like the digital will provided by Digital Wealth Media Inc.
Please keep in mind that if you do use a lawyer it will cost significantly more and you may also have to pay additional fees each time you want to change the will – such as to include new passwords or new accounts.
Those looking to save money while also still ensuring their digital accounts are protected can opt for an online digital will, which makes sense in a lot of ways since it is covering digital assets – you get a digital will for digital possessions.
If you choose an online digital will you would go through the simple instruction process and then save your copy of the will. You could also make changes to the document whenever you want without incurring extra fees.
Another way to look at a digital will would be to see it as something similar to a logbook … or digital asset checklist … or online guide … for your digital beneficiaries.
Here is the 5 Step Process for Setting Up a Digital Will:
- Complete the online digital will form or have a lawyer draw it up – make sure it includes all your websites and logins
- Select an executor for the digital will
- List all your digital assets
- State specifically how you want each asset to be handled
- State that your executor must be provided with a copy of your death certificate
What Type of Information Will You Need to Complete a Digital Will?
You would need passwords and other account information for all your digital accounts, which could include:
- Trading accounts (E*Trade, etc)
- Subscription content (iTunes, Netflix)
- Online banking accounts
- Digital wallets or online payment accounts (PayPal, etc)
- Bitcoin or other digital currencies
- Personal photos
- Work files
- Email accounts
- Domain names
- Web content or blogs
- Text and cellphone accounts
- Online gambling accounts
- Loyalty reward programs
- Online shopping accounts (Amazon, etc.)
- Any copyrights or trademarks
- Social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
- And more
Create a Digital Checklist …
One of the best ways to handle this step is to create a digital checklist or digital cheat sheet that lists your accounts, site addresses and login information and what you want to do with that account upon your passing, such as leaving it to a digital heir or closing it.
Once you have established a comprehensive digital asset inventory and clearly identified your digital asset heirs, it will then be time to determine who you would like to serve as the digital executor of your will. You should choose someone who is:
- Technically competent
- Willing to accept the job duties
First and foremost, you don’t want to select someone who doesn’t want the job. This could lead to them developing resentment for the position and then not executing their duties as directed.
You need someone you know will do a good job and who won’t get jealous or spiteful if someone else receives something of more perceived value than them.
You also need someone who is well-organized and pays great attention to detail. Choosing someone with tact and good communication skills can also be good.
Once I Have My Digital Will Are There Other Things That I Need to Do?
It’s best to handle many of the things regarding death planning at one time and avoid procrastination.
That means you may also want to do the following:
Complete a Regular Last Will and Testament
As we said with the digital will, be sure to name an executor who is trustworthy and dependable. After all, this person is going to be responsible for carrying out your wishes when you’re gone so it has to be someone you trust.
Select a Guardian if Necessary
If you have minor children you will need to choose a guardian or guardians for them. At this time you should also make appropriate financial provisions for each of them. Also, you should write a letter to the guardian or guardians in which you detail how you would like your children to be raised.
Determine if a Trust is Needed
You should also consider setting up a trust for the purpose of managing your assets for the future benefit of your heirs. You will also need to select a trustee to run the trust.
Establish Health Care Directives
At this time, you will also want to prepare a living will and name a health care proxy who will be responsible for explaining your wishes about what measures you would like to be instituted to sustain your life artificially.
Give Power of Attorney
You will also need to select someone to have a power of attorney so that can make decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
Assess Your Insurance
This is also a good time to look over your insurance needs. You should also select your primary and contingent beneficiaries.
Take a Look at Bank Accounts and Pension Plans
Specifically, you should look to update your beneficiary designation, if it is necessary.
Organize and Inventory All Important Documents
When you get all your documents together you should also then store them in a safe and secure location. Once you have stored them, be sure to inform your loved ones, including your chosen executor, as to the contents and location of the documents.
But What About Digital Estate Planning? Is There More I Should Know About That?
First and foremost, you need to understand that one of the best things that you can do for your family and loved ones is to get organized and that definitely applies these days to your digital assets.
You need to be sure your digital will and your other important digital documents can be easily located in one secure but convenient location – either online or offline or both.
This will help guarantee that your executor will be able to handle your affairs quickly and easily and with as little stress and confusion as possible.
Remember, if you are choosing the same executor for your digital will and your regular will they are going to have a number of duties to perform – they are going to have to locate assets, pay off your debts, distribute the assets according to your wishes and arrange for your final wishes to be carried out (which could include setting up your final resting place).
Making your digital executor search for your digital will or other important information will only make their job much, much harder. Please also keep in mind that they are probably going through a very tough time emotionally so you should try to do everything you can to make it as easy as possible for them.
The take away here is to understand that the most challenging task an executor faces, digital or regular, is to locate vital documents and instructions to settle the estate.
When your digital and regular affairs are not in order, it can result in a number of challenges for those you are leaving behind:
- You could cause them to have to rush around – at a time of great sadness – to locate essential documents and papers like wills, advanced directives,medical records, cemetery deeds and more
- You could cause your loved ones to feel stressed and worried due to poor planning
- You could make it extremely hard for them to make good decisions regarding your estate due to inadequate information
- You could greatly increase the stress they are under at a very difficult time in their life because they can’t locate important documents
- You could cause them to lose sleep worrying about the safety of your digital accounts that they cannot access
How Does a Digital Will Work in Real Life
A good example for how a digital will works is Tonya Page. Tonya decided to get all of her affairs in order after turning 60 years old.
As she started to go through all of her accounts and assets she realized she had more items than what a regular traditional will would cover and so she began to research her options.
Ultimately, she decided on using Digital Wealth Media Inc's new digital will to catalogue her digital assets and ensure that the right people inherited those assets.
Digital Wealth Media Inc's digital will is a comprehensive digital template that provides the user with everything he or she needs to create, print and edit a 100% binding legal document that protects their digital assets.
The will can be completed in minutes and establishes a clear chain-of-command for all digital assets. The user can even appoint a trustworthy, reliable and tech-savvy digital executor for the will.
Tonya determined she needed this legal will because she had numerous online accounts including an online banking account, a PayPal account and more. She was also very active on Facebook and Instagram and didn’t want all the photos that she had in those accounts to disappear forever.
So Tonya completed the digital will form to get peace of mind about her digital assets.
Should she decide later to open a new account or close an existing one, she can quickly access the digital will and make the appropriate changes without paying any expensive lawyer fees.
She says this flexibility was a major reason she chose the online will to handle her digital assets. She wanted to ensure her loved ones received the correct digital inheritance without any confusion or fighting.
Another Example of a Digital Will User is Todd
He is a farmer in rural Nebraska who keeps a lot of information about his operation “in the cloud.” He also has a number of online accounts, including online banking, PayPal and Facebook.
As Todd hit his mid-60s he wanted to be sure that his sons and daughters had easy access to all the information they needed to keep the family farm running optimally so he created a digital will using the online will kit (or will form).
The digital will put all of his important digital information in one convenient, easy to access place and ensures that no one will be left scrambling should he die unexpectedly.
Who Needs a Digital Will?
Honestly, pretty much everyone who goes online today. If you use Facebook or Twitter or Instagram … if you have an online banking account or membership accounts at other websites … if you use PayPal or Venmo or another online pay service … you need a digital will.
Not only will a digital will help you keep your online information organized and easily accessible but it will also ensure that everything is handled according to your wishes when you pass.
That will give you peace of mind and it will also save your digital heirs a lot of stress and uncertainty as well.
The Internet, and especially social media, has become a huge part of our lives today. It is how many of us communicate and how we share events from our lives.
Because the Internet plays such a vital role in our lives today it, out of necessity, must now also play a huge role when we consider our deaths.
Many of us now have what could be called “digital wealth” and it’s only right that we pass those digital resources on to our loved ones, or our digital guardians.
You don’t want something that you have devoted a significant part of your life to managing to simply disappear when you do. It is important that a loved one has access to those memories so that they can continue on in one form or another.
Think of all the photos you’ve posted online. Think of the meaningful posts that you’ve made.
It’s important for all of those digital possessions to remain accessible to friends and loved ones or at least one friend or loved one. And to do that you need to create a digital will. You don’t want your digital life to just disappear.
Creating a digital will is quick and easy thanks to online products like the Digital Will from Digital Wealth Media Inc. Plus, by filling out a Digital Will you will also be organizing your digital assets and making it much easier to keep track of your accounts and your passwords.
It’s important to remember that our digital assets include a lot more than just our social media accounts as well. There may be money in your PayPal or Venmo account that no one will have access to unless you share your password via a digital will.
For all these reasons, it’s important for seniors to include a digital will among their valuable documents. Don’t let your digital footprint be erased forever. Spending just the few minutes you need to go about preparing a will is a small price to pay to preserve your digital files for your loved ones.
Who will you give your access rights to? The truth is your digital possessions could be some of the most meaningful things your beneficiaries receive upon your death. They could get the same enjoyment from them as you did. They could also profit from some of the assets as well. That’s why making an online will can be one of the most important things you do for your heirs … as well as for yourself.
The bottom line is having a digital will is important for peace of mind as we move forward into an uncertain future. By making a will, you’ll know that your precious digital assets will be taken care of according to your wishes. Your digital wealth will be preserved!
Most Frequently Asked Questions
What is a digital will?
A digital will is a legal document that identifies your digital assets and explains what you would like done with them upon your passing. A digital will typically contains a list of your website memberships, accounts and other digital assets along with your passwords and other login information.
How do you create a digital will?
There are two options – you can have a lawyer draw one up for you or you can create one online through the Digital Will product offered by Digital Wealth Media Inc. A word of warning: if you choose to have a lawyer do it you may have to pay significant fees and you would also most likely have to pay additional fees should you decide to make changes or update the will at a later date.
Which digital assets should you include in your digital will?
The short answer is all of them. The longer answer is: trading accounts, subscription accounts, online banking accounts, digital wallets or online payment accounts, Bitcoin or other digital currencies, personal photos, work files, email accounts, domain names, web content or blogs, text and cellphone accounts, online gambling accounts, loyalty reward programs, online shopping accounts, any copyrights or trademarks and all social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and more.
Should everyone on social media create a digital will?
Yes, most definitely. For one thing failure to have someone take control of your account after your passing could open your account to being hacked which could put your loved ones and their online identities at risk as well. For another thing, you may have photos and other posts that loved ones would like to preserve and by not giving someone access to your account those mementos may be irretrievable and gone for good.
What happens if you die without a digital will?
A lot of things can happen – and they are for the most part not good. For instance your digital inventory could become inaccessible. That means no one would be able to access your family photos or your funny or enlightening private posts. That also means your digital accounts could become vulnerable to being hacked. And if they are hacked your estate could be responsible for any losses that result. Someone else, a stranger, could also take over your accounts which could cause more problems for your digital heirs.