A survey by Nolo found that 67% of Americans say they don’t have a will. Nolo estate planning expert Betsy Simmons Hannibal says:
“When it comes to having legal documents in order, most Americans aren’t prepared to die. Wills not only give people the chance to leave instructions about what should happen to their property after they pass away, but wills are capable of doing much more – even naming who should take care of your digital property once you’re gone.”
There is no doubt that death is a difficult discussion to bring up with your family and friends, let alone yourself. However, it is also an event that is inevitable, therefore, it is important to be prepared in terms of your assets and personal property in order to alleviate the admin faced by your loved ones after your death. Regardless of your age, it’s better to be prepared for the worst-case scenario at any stage of your life.
Moreover, there are various and multiple reasons you might not have a will drafted already. Perhaps you think you are too young or that your possessions are not of value. Maybe you think you still have years ahead of you to worry about having to create a will document. Perhaps you are concerned you won’t have anyone to witness your will, or that you won’t have any loved ones to whom you can bequeath your assets. Perhaps you just don’t know where to begin arranging your affairs.
If you think you don’t have enough assets to write a will or that your assets are not valuable enough, you are most probably wrong. Not only should your will cover your wishes surrounding your personal belongings, such as property, money and jewelry, but also your digital property or digital assets which make up your digital estate. This is essentially any information about you that is accessible in digital format, such as via the Internet or on a storage drive. It also includes the information – such as username or password – required to access this information. Think about things such as:
• USB drives
• Digital Camera
• Personal or business blogs
• Online business websites or domains you may own
• Business mailing or subscription lists
• Intellectual property, such as photos, music or art
• Bank accounts and other accounts such as PayPal or any loyalty programs
• Data stored electronically, such as on the cloud
• Social media accounts
If you hadn’t thought about it before, now is the perfect time to assess what you would like to happen to all of your digital property in the event of your passing. In fact, on some social media sites, you can nominate someone to take over your account and close it if you pass on.
If you are concerned about not having loved ones to whom you can bequeath your assets, you should know that it is not your only option to leave your belongings to people you care about. You could be the last member of your family or friends, or perhaps you decided to stay unmarried and had no children. In these cases, you may opt to donate your assets to a charity of your choice. Think about causes you may be passionate about in your daily life, such as a hospice, orphanage or animal welfare organization.
There is no denying that coming to terms with planning your death can be challenging but it is something that needs to be done. The sooner, the better. Plus, once it has been wrapped up, unless your circumstances change drastically throughout your life, you won’t have to look back at this document for many years to come. Remember to keep it in a safe place!