Have you ever thought about the information stored on your computer or other devices that someone would need to know about if you were suddenly incapacitated or no longer with us? I recently heard about a CPA in Wyoming that didn't. It took his family more than seven months to sort out the mess after his sudden death. And to add even more pain, it happened right in the midst of tax season.
Now, I understand not everyone is a CPA - or even has a business, which should be given much consideration for emergency planning - but in today's world many of us have a massive amount of information digitized. Just think for a moment... do you pay any of your bills online? Do you Shop online and have credit card information stored with these stores, or payment services such as PayPal? Do you have any online subscriptions? Do you keep family photos somewhere? What about social media sites? And last but not least, consider your email addresses. Does someone know where all of this information is kept
By the way, I most certainly hope it is not on any unsecured electronic devices, in your wallet or your day calendar. If it is, your priority TODAY has just changed. This information needs to be in a secure location that a hacker would not be able to access and a thief would have a difficult time obtaining and recognizing how to use.
For now though, let's get back on task: we all have a digital estate. Take a moment and imagine that the worst has happened to you - what would someone need to know? Following are three simple steps for organizing your digital estate.
First, grab a pen and paper and commence writing. Go through each of your logins, apps, emails, etc. and write down the pertinent facts. Start with each device you own today, the login for these devices, the locations of backups, flash drives and disks, financial institutions, identity protection services, medical accounts, shops, service companies and payment services, social media sites, family pictures, any subscriptions. You may not be able to think of everything off the top of your head so I would encourage you to keep a small notepad with you this week and write down a note to remind you to add it to your list as you come across it. The goal is to get it all down physically and keep it in a safe place. This can be a physical place, your KFS online vault or better yet, both.
Second, address the "who." Who will be responsible for your digital estate? And who will be your backup. You need to have two people you can trust to know where you keep your digital estate and who can take action when the time comes.
Third and just as important as the prior two: Set yourself a reminder on your phone to review your digital estate at least twice per year. It would be ideal if you could get in the habit of updating it every time you change a password, purchase a new device, etc., but that may not be realistic. It sure isn't for me. So go ahead and set that alarm right now before you forget.
If the worst has happened to you, your loved ones will be grieving no matter what time of year or what your occupation is. Make this step a permanent part of caring for your loved ones.