Take a second to think about all of the online accounts you have created over the years for personal and business use. From online banking to social media accounts to perhaps multiple email addresses even signing up for email discounts from Macy’s and other retailers. The average person has 90 online accounts. In addition to those accounts consider the devices used from smartphones to video game systems as well as digital property and assets such as a YouTube Channel, Bitcoin, photos and videos. All of that brings into play a much bigger digital footprint left after death.
You may have personally experienced the challenges in managing a loved one’s online accounts and social media profiles following their death. As a funeral service professional you have most likely witnessed the frustration family members feel in accessing their loved one’s important information. It can be overwhelming and confusing for those family members in charge of handling their loved one’s estate. The complicated nature of handling one’s personal affairs can certainly lead to identity theft and or extending probate court for years. There are tremendous opportunities for funeral directors and pre-arrangement specialists to assist individuals in completing their digital estate plan that includes instructions for handling digital property and assets.
A funeral director or pre-arrangement specialist can introduce digital legacy planning to families during the at-need arrangement conference, pre-arrangement conference, aftercare meetings, and as a community outreach program. Below are 11 ideas to consider for implementation.
- Create a new position or role/title called Digital Legacy Advisor.
A Digital Legacy Advisor provides important information, the necessary resources and step-by-step guidance to help clients complete their digital legacy plan. Additionally, this person needs to be knowledgable about online legacy planning platforms such as GoodTrust and Everplans.
- Introduce Digital Legacy Planning through establishing credibility.
For example, “Mrs. Smith, in addition to helping individuals complete their pre-arranged funeral plan I also specialize in Digital Legacy Planning. You may be curious about what that process entails. I’d be pleased to share with you more information and resources that will simplify the process.”
- Anticipate all questions and carefully craft responses that are simple to understand.
Those questions could range from how to make digital estate plan legally binding in a particular state or addressing why leaving usernames with passwords is not legally acceptable with many online accounts.
- Manage expectations effectively for sharing additional information and resources and the value for taking the proactive steps to completing a digital legacy plan.
For a pre-arrangement conference.
“In addition to completing your end-of-life plan and how you wish to be remembered, I want to share how Smith Funeral Home can assist in digital legacy planning. Together, we will look at a very simple approach to organizing all of your online accounts and digital files. I’ll also share with you important resources, documents, and who needs to know your specific wishes. By the end of our time together you will feel confident knowing the right steps to take to creating a thorough digital legacy plan as well as providing peace of mind to your family.”
After a loved one’s death, the focus is on accessing digital accounts in a timely manner and not creating a digital estate plan. Below is a statement where the funeral director provides information for accessing online accounts and digital files.
“Mrs. Brown, in addition to copies of important documents, you will come across instructions on how to access your husband’s online accounts and digital files. As difficult as this process may be I recommend that you ask a family member or friend to assist. If you should have any questions or concerns please call or email and our Digital Legacy Advisor can assist.”
During an aftercare visit, it’s important to explain the personal and legal details that need to be taken care of after a loved one’s death. Below is a simple transition statement to share with an individual about the resources and tools available as well as how a Digital Legacy Advisor can assist.
“Mrs. Brown, I appreciate the time we have spent together and sharing with me about what you have been feeling since your husband’s death. Before I leave here today I want to discuss with you how Smith Funeral Home can assist in handling the personal and legal details specifically in accesses his online accounts and digital files. I want you to have peace of mind that you have the right information and are in touch with the right people to help.”
- Ask questions that will help to transition into a more detailed discussion about digital estate planning.
Have you given thought to creating a Digital Legacy Plan that outlines how you wish your online accounts and digital files are handled after your death?
If you should die suddenly or become incapacitated who do you want to be able to access your email, texts, and social media accounts?
Would someone know how to access your online accounts following your death?
A privacy concern some individuals have is in regards to the published obituary. Based on the information you have shared is there anything you wish to be omitted?
(At that point the family may want to give careful consideration to including the maiden name, birthday, hobbies and interest, place of employment.)
- Present Digital Planning Worksheets to individuals ready to take initial steps to completing their digital legacy plan.
- Reach out to local hospice providers and present to their social workers who may be asked by patients and families how to handle digital files and online accounts.
- Partner with hospice providers where both companies are the sponsors of this program to the entire community.
- Partner with a local estate attorney who specialize in digital estate planning.
- Add downloadable worksheets and relevant information, links and articles to your funeral home’s website.
- Use Get Organized Month or National Get Organized Day to promote the importance of pre-planning a funeral, organizing digital assets, and getting health directives in place.
As funeral service professionals, you see firsthand how pre-planned and pre-funded funerals reduce the stress for family members and caregivers. That very same relief carries over when information about digital accounts is organized and shared with clear instructions.
For the individual completing the digital legacy plan, there is peace of mind that their family and executor will be carrying out their specific wishes and that their digital assets and digital afterlife will be protected.
As one digital assets increase throughout their lifetime it can become quite expansive and complicated. The bigger it is the bigger the potential it has to be tied up in probable court for years. The time spent in probate court gives hackers and con artists more time to commit fraudulent crimes.
At the end of the day, it’s all about protecting an individual’s identity. A digital estate plan with a complete inventory of all digital assets and clear instructions will help to protect one’s identity before it’s too late. To learn more about this process and other ways to help the families you serve contact Johnson Consulting Group.
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