The Savvy Senior | Do You Need a Digital Will?  

The Savvy Senior

Dear Savvy Senior,  

My wife and I had our estate plan – including a will, power of attorney and advance directive – drawn up about 10 years ago but have recently read that our plan should include a digital will, too. What can you tell us about this?  

— Almost 80  

Dear Almost,  

If you or your wife spend much time online, adding a separate digital will document to your estate plan that provides a list of your digital assets would be extremely helpful to your loved ones when you die, not to mention it will help protect your privacy. Here’s what you should know.  

Do You Have Digital Asset?  

The term “digital assets” refers to personal information that is stored electronically on either a computer or an online cloud server account that belongs to an individual. Anyone who uses email, has a PIN-code-protected cell phone, makes online purchases, or pays bills online has digital assets.  

Digital assets generally require a username, a password, or a PIN to access and can be difficult if not impossible to retrieve if someone is incapacitated or passes away.   

Creating a digital will (also known as a digital estate plan) will help your loved ones access your electronic devices and online accounts more easily so they can manage your electronic affairs, according to your wishes, after you’re gone. This in turn will also protect your digital assets from hackers or fraud, which can happen to dormant accounts after you die.  

How to Write a Digital Will  

Your first step in creating a digital will is to make an inventory list of your digital assets, which includes everything from hardware to email accounts. Here are a few categories to help kick-start your list:  

  • Electronic devices (computer, smartphone, tablet, external hard drive).  
  • Digital files (for photos, videos or documents). 
  • Financial accounts (like bank and brokerage accounts, credit cards, cryptocurrency).  
  • Bill paying accounts (utilities, mortgage accounts).  
  • Social media accounts (like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn).  
  • Email accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.).  
  • Cloud-storage accounts (like Google Cloud, iCloud, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive). 
  • Movie or music streaming services (like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Apple Music). 
  • Online purchasing accounts (like Venmo or PayPal). 
  • Subscription services (magazines, newspapers, Amazon Prime, etc.).  
  • Reward programs (travel, stores, etc.).  
  • Membership organizations (AARP, AAA, etc.).  

When making your list, you’ll need to include usernames, passwords, PINS, account numbers or security questions for accessing each account. And provide instructions on how you want your assets managed after your death. For example: Do you want certain accounts closed, archived or transferred? Do you want specific files or photos to be deleted or shared with loved ones? Do you want your social media profiles memorialized or deleted? Be clear and specific about your wishes.  

You’ll also need to appoint a digital executor who you trust to execute your wishes after you die.  

From a legal perspective, you should know that most states have enacted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which legally recognizes digital estates. This law gives your personal representative or executor legally protected access to your online accounts.   

Once your digital will is written, store it with your other estate plan documents either in a fireproof safe or file cabinet at home, on your computer hard drive, with your estate planning attorney or online at a reputable digital estate planning service like or But make sure your executor knows where it is and has access to it.   

Also remember to keep your digital will updated regularly when you create any new digital accounts or change passwords.   

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.  

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