AARP Article: Prepare a Digital Estate Plan for Future Caregivers

How to provide the information they’ll need to manage your online data

by Amanda Singleton, AARP

My mother kept a little black book. Not the fun kind filled with suitors’ phone numbers; rather, a binder that contained her accounts, passwords and ongoing bills. When an out-of-the-blue cancer diagnosis took my mom from independent woman to completely disabled within weeks, the book was my caregiving road map. It held information that she very suddenly could not remember nor convey, but that I needed to keep the gears of her life turning.

With the book, I kept the utilities on at my mother’s house, paid her mortgage and other bills, and handled insurance, work benefits and disability applications. When she died, the book helped me liquidate her assets, finalize her debts, and share the news of her passing through her email accounts and social media.

My mom’s estate planning legal documents did not include a digital plan, which was not uncommon in 2010 when she made her will. So, even though she told me I had permission, I had no true legal authority to access her online accounts and digital property. Her foresight in creating the little black book helped me get by, but there is certainly a better way and many more options for digital planning today than there were even a few short years ago…

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