An Advisor’s Role in Digital Estate Planning

February 21, 2019

We all think we’re going to live forever (spoiler: we’re not). But our digital lives? That’s another story entirely.

While all lives will end someday, our digital lives can live on – especially if we don’t put some plans and instructions in place.  Last week, while attending two funerals, I wondered about what will happen to the pictures, notes, birthday wishes, etc. of the deceased and I thought about a post I wrote in 2015: The Digital Afterlife: What Role Can Advisors Play?

It reflected on a meeting with an advisor in upstate New York that turned into a casual friendship where we traded funny comments and notes via social media.  I was shocked and saddened when I learned, also via social, about his sudden, too-soon death.  Yet as I look today, his Facebook account is still active with a few happy birthday wishes, as well as touching pictures/posts from his wife and two daughters. 

Having the conversation

digital estatePushing your clients to have conversations about estate planning is one of your tougher duties – many clients have trouble discussing their mortality.  They also think there is plenty of time to get around to it (we all think we are going to live forever). Today, digital estate planning has to be part of the package that you offer and my guess is that the conversation will be just as difficult.  The idea of giving up passwords and accounts may make them uncomfortable. 

In the three years since I wrote The Digital Afterlife: What Role Can Advisors Play?, other ideas to help your clients have become more mainstream.  Things like:

  • Companies like LastPass and RoboForm can save passwords behind a single login.  (Hat tip to advisor James L. Losey Jr. for the comment on the original blog post)
  • Everplans, a “secure digital archive” that can be gifted to a client (or recommended) as a single source for all the information

By adding digital estate planning to your other comprehensive planning, you are adding a significant service to your clients.  One that goes beyond dollars and cents, but one that is just as valuable – how they will be remembered. 

James L. Losey Jr. is not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries.

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