Every year, Facebook sends me a reminder to wish my sister a happy birthday. Sometimes, it tries to lure me back to Facebook by saying my sister hasn’t heard from me in a while. My sister is dead. But there is nothing I can do to stop these reminders. She didn’t tell anyone her Facebook password before she died. In fact, Facebook is just one element of her digital life that reaches out, like a ghost, pretending she is still with us. Most of her online life is completely lost to us and we will likely never find it. There might be bank accounts we don’t know about, online friends who are wondering why she never writes, photo collections, and email accounts full of people we don’t know.
No one wants to think about what happens to any of this when they are alive. But for those of us left behind, it’s frustrating and painful to lose a loved one and then have to immediately become a detective and decision-maker for everything about their life.
Six years ago, my sister probably didn’t have a lot of easy ways to pass her phone and online passwords, online data, and social media accounts to someone she trusted who might be willing to convert her social media to a memorial let her online friends know what happened, empty bank accounts, and stop the startling reminders to those who are grieving her passing. But there are lots of options now. In fact, there are easy digital tools that making preparing everything from your money to your kids’ care to your online data and social media accounts for the day when you might be unable to do anything yourself.
More than three million people died last year, suddenly and without time to plan, from a disease, most of us never saw coming. All their families are probably dealing with the same reminders and frustrations I am. Maybe this is a good time to put your affairs in order?
Here are five easy ways to do this, right from your phone or laptop.
www.clocr.com, $120 a year
What happens to all your photos on Instagram? Will anyone tell your business associates on Alignable that you are no longer working? What’s your Wi-Fi password? Do you have a Netflix account, work stored at Box? Where do you bank?
You know these things—or know where you store this information—but the people who will be tasked with cleaning up your home, financials, and the mark you have left behind will struggle to locate them.
CLOCR has thought of everything so you don’t have to. Log on, go through the long and thorough checklist of services, accounts, loyalty plans, insurance plans, and everything else you might have online—one small step at a time—then assign someone who will get access to your files. You can assign it all to one person or assign different parts of your online life to different people to manage when you are gone. And you dictate the level of access each person will have. They will not be able to see sensitive information until the law allows it but, once they clear that hurdle, you will save them a lot of time and energy.
You can gather together detailed information and files about your pets, kids, home, taxes, accounts, and put all the information the people you have asked to handle your estate will need to handle things according to your wishes.
You can even write messages to the future in the Time Capsule. You can send messages, photos, recipes, or reminders to the people you know now in their future.
www.everplans.com, $75 per year after a 60-day free trial
Will the people who survive you know how to unlock your phone, find your bank account, know who holds the mortgage, or how to access the files on your computer? Imagine how frustrating that will be? This site takes you through documenting all of this, one interview question at a time, then keeps it all safe online where only the person or persons you designate can access it all.
In addition to creating a vault for all that information data you don’t want to share now but do want your executor to have access to, this site lets you tell people what kind of final celebration you want. It even takes you through an interview to help you figure out what you want because most of us don’t stop, while we are living, to come up with a plan for this and the people we leave behind are left making a lot of decisions at a very difficult time. You can even write your own obituary and include some photos. As the person who wrote my sister’s, I can’t emphasize enough how much help I needed from her on this.
Even if you only get a few minutes into Everplan before you get hit by a buss, your executor will have your phone unlock and know where you keep your passwords, which is huge. Each step gives you a time estimate for each entry, and many are just a minute, so if you spend a few minutes a week here, you will be doing your loved ones a huge favor.
You will also be doing yourself a favor, though, because this site is also meant to be an organized vault of important information while you are alive. Keep a copy of your vaccine records, will, accounts, and more.
And you can stipulate how you feel about your long-term care and what insurance you have for this if you suffer a debilitating injury or illness.
sidedrawer.com, $60 a year
This wealth management platform is designed to keep all your financial, insurance, taxes, legal documents, health information, and details about your belongings and vehicles all securely in one place. But, if you are going to keep terrific records online, you might as well make it possible for someone to access them when you go. And this site will do that, as well. You can share this data with collaborators–like a spouse or family member–to keep all your important information on the same page.
You can create a Side Drawer for your kids, too, and hand all their important documents and accounts over to them when they are old enough to get them started off right on the organization front.
There is no way to create a Will here or send messages to the future. But it’s useful for you while you are still here and would help your executor a great deal when you aren’t. And it’s the perfect place to store a will.
[JJ. Tomorrow is on iPhone only and I don’t have an iphone. I did a will in it a while back but not this time. This image is from their site.]
While you are thinking about what happens after you’re gone, do you even have a will? You aren’t alone in that. About 60 percent of Americans don’t have one. But if you have ten minutes and an iPhone, you can whip through this in less time than it takes to get up off the couch after a long day. In fact, since Tomorrow is an iPhone app, you can do it without getting up off the couch.
Just get the app and answer some easy questions. Who is your spouse? Who are your kids? Do you have other family? It even uses your phone’s contact information to fill in these details. Then it moves onto your stuff, which you can do all in one setting or whenever you have time.
Do you have a house? A car? A boat? Diamonds in a safe-deposit box? Stocks? Bitcoin? Tell the app who gets what, when it comes to these big-ticket items.
Then get up off the couch and walk around the house snapping cell phone pics of your collections, your antiques, your fine jewelry, or your prized collection of action figure and tell the app who you want to get each of those when you are gone. Connect your bank, insurance, mortgage, and other accounts and dictate what happens to those. When you are done, it prints a will you can take to a notary.
Nolo’s Quicken Willmaker & Trust 2021
Willmaker has been around for decades and it does the job of preparing for your own demise gently, quickly, and thoroughly in an easy-to-use interview format. Whether your situation is simple or you have children whose custody you need to consider, it asks the questions you need to answer, one after another, and stores all this information wherever you want to put it—on paper, on a flash drive, in your own online storage, or wherever you like.
This is a piece of software you purchase and download. Then you walk through the interview to create a will, a living trust, a health care directive, and a durable power of attorney for finances. It creates a document for your executor that includes everything that person will need including checklists, letters, and forms. It lets you plan a funeral, describe your preferences for your own care, and write an obituary. And it walks you through organizing your information and providing everything from bank accounts to passwords and the names of people you would like them to contact.
You can even write letters to your survivors that your executor will be able to distribute. This gives you a way to explain your final decisions, share some wisdom, or just say goodbye.
On top of that, Willmaker is loaded with simple legal documents and forms you might need now, including promissory notes, powers of attorney, contracts for lending or borrowing money, and much more.