Seniors and the Digital World

Seniors and the Digital World

The “Digital World” is woven into our lives.  In addition to computers, we now use smart phones, tablets, e-readers, thumb drives, external hard drives and more.  Recent studies have found 50% of Americans 65+ are online.  And they are the fastest growing age group to use social media.  Every 60 seconds more than 600,000 Skype calls are made; 2.8 million YouTube videos are viewed, 762,000 files are uploaded to Dropbox, 3.2 million posts are made to Facebook and 204 million emails are sent.  Seniors are becoming more and more sophisticated using the ‘Digital World.’


It is critical that seniors have a plan for their digital assets just as they do for ‘hard’ assets so that when the time comes their families are able to access all that needs to be accessed.  As the “Digital World” is relatively new, too many seniors have plans that do not include user names, passwords and more that their families need to find information and keep important and precious information.


The list is long and includes internet banking and other financial transaction sites, Paypal, EBay, Amazon, iTunes, e-Books.  Cloud storage (music, photos, videos).  Social media sites that contain pictures, memories and/or contacts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, YouTube. Genealogy sites such as, email accounts including contacts and blogs – yes seniors’ blog.  And, include domain names as they own those too!


There are many impediments to obtaining needed information once a person dies or becomes incapacitated.  Every state has criminal laws about unauthorized access to personal accounts.  Florida does not yet have a fiduciary digital asset statute but is likely to follow other states and have one in the future.  “Terms of Service” with accounts are not consumer friendly which has led to the locking down of Facebook and other social media accounts.


What do seniors need to do?

  • Organize and inventory all hardware, accounts, user names, passwords and answers to “secret questions”
  • Create and keep updated a master list for the inventory that only needs one password to access and store it on an encrypted electronic list via 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass or Roboform
  • Backup on an external hard drive, DVD, thumb drive
  • Consider using a web-based service that allows designated fiduciaries or family members access such as AfterSteps, Assets in Order, BestBequest, Deathswitch, Estate Map, E-Z-Safe, SecureSafe
  • Backup “account settings” of sites such as Facebook, Google+, etc. using a program like Backupify
  • For “paperless” accounts, obtain a paper statement once a year
  • Create a separate email account to serve exclusively for all “paperless” asset information.
  • Once all of the “assets” are identified and saved, help seniors take the time to create messages and mementos, such as letters, audio and/or video recordings to be distributed after their death. This undertaking can be very emotional for them so encourage them to work at a comfortable pace.
  • After this steps 1 – 7 are done, make sure they contact their estate planning attorney to ask that plans for their digital property are included in their estate plan. They need to their wishes about all property and who will be appointed as the fiduciary to act on their behalf in regard to these assets. This person, and their wishes, should be specifically named in any powers of attorney or trust documents. Planning now for digital property is essential to allow for full access to data, to keep estate administration costs down and to ensure that none of their valuable digital legacy is overlooked or lost.