You need a will. Yes you, the one with no money.
You think a will is for the wealthy: people with houses and cars and investment accounts. You’d be surprised how many of those people still don’t have wills because they don’t think they are quite wealthy enough – or more likely, aren’t thinking about their death at all. The truth is, people of modest means need the will the most. I’ll explain that later – first, I still need to convince you that you need a will.
If you’ve worked at any permanent job, you may have some kind of retirement account, even if it’s small. You have a bank account, maybe even a credit card. You could also inherit something from your family at any point in the future. You also have stuff, and some of it is valuable to someone, whether it’s worth money, or if it’s just something they want to remember you by. These are all reasons to have a will – even a simple will can avoid the very real possibility it will all be lost. I’ll explain why – but you still don’t think you need a will.
But even without all that stuff (a house, investment accounts, collectibles), you have more than you think.
You have a facebook account? Or emails? Some kind of cloud-based drive for storing documents or pictures? Still on myspace or friendster? Did you make some videos and upload them to youtube? Blog Posts? Writings, messages, your status as moderator of reddit? This is your digital life – or as we think of it, your intellectual property. Yes, all of the words and pictures and videos and messages are part of your estate – and if you don’t deal with it now, it’s going to be a terrible nightmare for the people left behind. This includes everything on your smartphone, too.
Do you want your mom to have all this access? Every Account? The law hasn’t settled this yet – some websites don’t allow a transfer of ownership at all. We aren’t quite sure what will happen to your account after you die. You need to designate a digital executor – someone you name to carry out your wishes – and have a plan for giving this person access to your online life. This will not happen automatically, because the law hasn’t figured this out yet. Banks and property holders know what to do for an executor with a court order because these institutions have been around for centuries – but facebook is still working out their own policies regarding the grant of access for next of kin. The NSA demands for emails and postings didn’t help open up social media to cooperating with courts, either.
The old joke – “When I Die, Delete My Browser History” – well that may not be a bad idea. But if you don’t set that up ahead of time, your browser history, selfies, those pics you send on snapchat, will all be found by a next-of-kin, maybe a sibling or parent. I’m not implying that everyone has a secret life on message boards or camming for extra money – but your digital life is complex, and if you don’t make a plan for who is going to handle it, you leave a lot to chance.
This is all part of a will. It’s not just a document that says where the money goes – it’s all your last instructions, what you want done, how you want to be memorialized, etc. Trust me; it’s going to make life easier for the people who love you.