Managing your loved one's final affairs
When you lose a loved one, the heartbreak and grief can be devastating. The last thing you want to worry about is the stress of taking care of their final affairs. There may be many things that require attention, like obtaining a death certificate and closing bank accounts; even simple things like cancelling gym memberships or shutting down social media accounts.
It can all seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to go through it alone. It may be helpful to create a checklist of what needs to be done and delegate certain tasks to other loved ones. It’s also a good idea to check to see if your life insurance plan offers help, too.
Protecting your loved one’s legacy also includes their digital presence. The average person owns multiple digital accounts, including social media, online shopping, email and banking. These accounts tend to outlive their users, and can be at risk of cyberthieves, who steal the identities of nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans each year.
Tips to help protect the digital legacy and online assets of your loved ones
Designate a digital executor
Work with your attorney to name a trusted friend or family member as a digital executor in your will. This person will have the ability to oversee what happens to your digital assets and carry out your terms. Without this, many online platforms and services may restrict access to accounts, so your loved ones may not be able to log in and retrieve information.
Create an inventory of all your assets
Make a list of every account you have. Include frequent-flier information or other rewards programs, which can be redeemed by a designated family member. Find a safe place to store your inventory lists.
Research state laws
Federal guidelines set in 2015 helped clarify how digital assets should be handled after a death. However, because states have adopted the law in different ways – along with a lack of knowledge by the general public about how to plan their digital legacy – it has made it difficult to establish a good management system. Visit the National Conference of State Legislatures site for more information about state-by-state legislation.
Most importantly, don't wait
Digital assets can be as significant as physical ones, so it is important to protect them before passing and help minimize avoidable burdens for loved ones.
Other important information
Some life insurance plans may offer support following the passing of a loved one, like UnitedHealthcare life insurance plan that now offers 24/7 support through Beneficiary Companion. The program’s assistance coordinators can help you obtain death certificates, plus manage notifications to the Social Security Administration, credit card companies, financial institutions and other government agencies. They can also help memorialize and preserve digital profiles, including social media and professional networking accounts.
Grieving is a challenging and important process after losing a loved one. Consider planning ahead and asking for support, so you can take away some of the stress of managing your loved one’s final affairs and focus on celebrating their life.