Digital Will, Part I: Requirements

last will and testament

Digital assets are becoming as important as physical assets, so how do you manage them after you die?

When you lose a member of your family, you may find yourself at some point thinking about your own mortality, which then may lead you to think through preparations for your own death. I lost my father recently, but years before his death, he set up a will that described how to manage his estate, but he also made sure to share with me login details for his important financial accounts so I would have access when the time came. When the time did come to put his plans into practice, those details were invaluable.

All of this made me realize just how complicated it would be for someone to manage my own accounts in the event of my death, especially considering how much effort I've gone through to secure my computers and accounts. After all, unlike my dad, I don't use the same password for everything. What I realized I needed was the equivalent of a digital will: instructions and credentials so my next of kin had everything they needed to access my accounts and manage my affairs. In this first article of what will be a two-part series, I describe the requirements and plans to create a digital will in a way that would be manageable for my next of kin while also not negatively affecting the security of my accounts. The second part of the article will describe how I implemented these plans.

Defining Terms

This digital will is based on many of the ideas behind a traditional will, and I intend on borrowing a lot of the framework and terms instead of "re-inventing the will". To get started, let me define a few terms, but I should make it clear that I'm not an attorney, so these are just loose definitions to describe how some common terms used in a will might be applied to this digital will: