Creating a Last Will and Testament helps you prepare for an unpredictable future. Death is inevitable, but not many of us enjoy carving time out of our day to think about our passing. Before our day comes, we hope we’ve time to say goodbye to loved ones and put our affairs in order.
A Last Will and Testament is a document that helps a trusted person carry out your final wishes. It provides instructions for distributing assets to your beneficiaries and paying outstanding debts.
But did you know that you can personalize your Will by adding unconventional beneficiaries, your online persona, digital assets, and social media accounts? Ask yourself these three questions when starting your estate plans.
1. Do I need to know my beneficiaries?
Most people already have their beneficiaries in mind: their spouse, children, siblings, or close friend. But what about those of us who have no living relatives or close friends?
It’s not uncommon for people to leave all or part of their estate to alternative beneficiaries. Your beneficiary can be an acquaintance, charity, organization, or even a town. In fact, a man named Keith Owen donated over two million to the town of Sidmouth, England and the town’s conservation organization, Sid Vale Association.
If that’s not your style, you could always follow Luis Carlos’ example. He was a wealthy Portuguese man who left his lofty fortune to 70 individuals randomly selected from the phone book.
Maybe you won’t transfer your estate to a town or to 70 strangers, but it’s good to know your options. Sit down and create a list of all the people or organizations you’d like to recognize after you pass away.
Read more: How to Donate to Charity in Your Will
2. Can I include digital assets in my Last Will?
Many people have online accounts and assets that they secure with a username and password: banking information, shopping memberships, streaming services, payment services, and more. So, what happens to all those accounts after you die?
For the most part, absolutely nothing. However, you may want reoccurring payments to stop immediately or to have all those accounts closed. To do this, give the executor of your Last Will any relevant account information by attaching an online identity record to your Will.
An online identity record, or online ID for short, is a document that identifies your account usernames and passwords. In life, this document helps you sort and organize all of your online accounts. In death, it helps your executor implement your final wishes with respect to those accounts.
Some of your digital assets, such as loyalty reward points, have financial value too. Think of the WestJet Reward points you’ve been collecting for that long overdue trip to Rome. Or perhaps you acquired free beverages from your daily Dunkin’ Donuts visit. Of course, you probably won’t be picketing in front of Dunkin Donuts’ head office for the right to transfer a free coffee to your heirs. Still, loyalty program points can accumulate to be worth thousands of dollars. Research your loyalty point programs and review the policy for transfers after death.
Keep in mind that companies don’t always follow those policies, as was the case with the American Airlines’ AAdvantage program. Their policy explicitly states that accrued miles are non-transferable after death. However, an American Airlines’ spokesperson once said that they’ll send you documents to enact a transfer to your beneficiaries upon request. In short, read the fine print but know that sometimes all you need to do is ask.
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If you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on digital songs and books, you may want to include your Apple Music or Kindle accounts in your Will. Unfortunately, in many situations, this isn’t possible. There are often rules about whether people can transfer accounts and the content within. These rules may also prevent others from using your account, even with your permission.
But—wait—if you can gift a tangible CD or book, why not a digital one? Unfortunately, while you may be able to give away a book, you can’t legally copy it. In situations where you’re legally allowed to copy your purchases to another device, this right expires when you pass away.
3. How do I include my social media accounts in my Will?
Social media may be the last thing on your mind as you plan your estate. But you probably don’t want all your posts available for your great, great-grandchildren to read years from now. There are various options for managing social media accounts after death.
In Facebook settings, for example, manage your account by adding a legacy contact—someone who can access your account after you die. Your legacy contact can respond to friend requests, update a profile picture, or pin a post to your profile. Other social media sites, however, may not have similar account management settings. This is where your online ID helps, especially if you want all those accounts closed right away.
Other sites like DeadSocial help you to create a lasting impression on social media through scheduled posts after you pass away. DeadSocial suggests that your first scheduled message tell your family and friends of your passing and that all subsequent messages were created by you “for them to enjoy.”
If you do choose to post after death, be sure to consider how those posts will affect your loved ones. A message from beyond the grave may seem thoughtful but it could be difficult for those still grieving your death.
Preparing your Will
Your Last Will does more than just distribute tangible assets after you pass. It’s a way for you to create a lasting legacy and memory of your life. Check out our Estate Planning Checklist to get started early. Take care of the finer details now to gain peace of mind—don’t wait until it’s too late.