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How To Create a Digital Inventory for your Estate Plan

We all feel the effect of digitalisation that is becoming so prevalent in our society and, in fact, taking on every community in the world by storm. It started in the late 20th century and has undergone rapid acceleration in the first two decades of this century. No one is immune from it or able to stem the surging tide of digital transformation. So, we will accept it and design strategies to manage it from an Estate Planning perspective. 

I created a project two years ago called “My Digital Life Register” and started to catalogue and create systems for all my digital stuff. Now not everyone needs to be as geeky as me, you can relax kn owing I’ve done it for you and here is a simple process to follow. Taking this on, I can certainly tell you it made me aware of how quickly the digitalisation of my life has become unmanageable, not just for me but from an Estate Planning perspective for my executor or decision-makers. Again, let’s not get caught up on that. When I started the project, I couldn’t find anything on the web explaining what a digital register is or how to create one, so in my inner geek, I made a project plan and mind mapped it out. This could be using paper and pen, but I used Evernote and MindNode. 

Step 1 – Devices & accessing them  
Step 2 – Apps & Subscriptions  
Step 3 – Accounts, Logins, Passwords & Websites  
Step 4 – Linking & Intentions

Step 1: I listed all the devices that are physical in nature and contain digital information about me and my real-world or digital assets. This includes, of course, the obvious; smartphones, tablets, computers & gaming machines, and the not-so-obvious; thumb drives, storage drives, modems, routers, printers, TVs etc. To this list, I added if there was a passcode, password, biometric or username login etc., which I then added to my password manager in step 3. I was surprised how many of my devices had codes I had not captured in my password manager. At the same time, I added serial number information purchase, e.g., iPhone 14 on Optus 24-month contract starting Oct 2020, and who owns the device, e.g., Work or Personal.

Step 2: I created a list of apps on the devices that have information about me and my real-world or digital assets. This was pretty easy, but it then led to a further classification in which type of information they held; Personal, Financial, social media, Tasks or just a login. Additionally, I captured if a subscription was attached to the app or service. Some say ways of cross-referencing this information with your credit/debit card statements and in your Apple/Google Account. Quick tip, I’m now reviewing the monthly subscription list to add and remove what I/my family no longer use. Again, I added in if the app was a “work” or “personal” app and who owned the information; I love tags! 

Step 3: Accounts, Logins, Passwords and password management system. Early in 2011, I decided to get a password management system for storing and managing my and my family’s logins, passwords and other information that should be encrypted. I have kept to that same system since that day; talk about a business model with no churn! I exported a CSV file, gathered all the information from the list, and started associating them with an App (List from step 2) or a Website/Company, which I then added to the App List, which I renamed the App+Website List, it contains over 1,000 entries. Again, I have started to review, and I am now more conscious of any new accounts or websites I join/log into. Depending on if you have set up a password manager and which one you have used, there are tools to share them with your Executor(s) & Guardians, which I’ll cover in another blog post. Again, I now went through the classification (Personal, Work, Financial, Social Media, or just a login) process again using tags.

Step 4: Linking & Intentions, everything so far was an information gathering and capture task, which took the most time but was easy to do thanks to just using the devices, apps and my password manager. Now the tricky bit is what is my intention with this device, app/website, information & service once I have lost capacity or at the end of my life (EOL). This can be done in multiple different ways;  

  • Spreadsheet/table
  • Paper list
  • Using a Note taking app; Apple Notes, Evernote, Obsidian, etc 
  • Password manager 

In each case, it’s a matter of identifying the item and listing your intention. I used my password manager and added a section called “Lost Capacity or EOL Instructions”, which could easily be a column in a table or spreadsheet. In these instructions, I mainly used the following terms; “Cancel”, “Delete”, “Delete data”, etc. I also added a tag, “Review 2025”, to loads of sites in case I no longer use them and may as well delete them myself. 
 
To go through my 1,000 items, it took about 2 hours, which is about the same time steps 1 to 3 took. In itself, it will save my executors/guardians more than 50 hours to sort all my digital life out, so I think it was a worthwhile investment of my time and something my Executors / Guardians will appreciate.