Millennials Must Plan For Their Digital Legacy

Millennials Must Plan For Their Digital Legacy

Scenes of overwhelmed intensive care units again dominate our newsfeeds as the next wave of the coronavirus surges throughout the country. Although the initial distributions of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provide us with hope that the pandemic’s end is near, we must sadly continue the battle against COVID-19 well into 2021. This ongoing fight is forcing Millennials to continue confronting their mortality.

As young adults at the precipice of their careers, some Millennials may avoid thinking about death. The urge to eschew estate planning can be strong when weighed against life’s more apparently immediate issues. However, all Millennials (regardless of wealth) have an asset that requires detailed planning in event of their demise – a digital legacy.

Millennials’ digital footprints dominate their lives. Entire swaths of their existences are enshrined on social media accounts and in photo libraries. Summaries of their assets and debts are solely documented through online financial accounts. Their medical records can only be retrieved through virtual healthcare portals. Every facet of Millennials’ digital footprints is guarded by usernames and passwords, some of which also require the additional input of verification codes texted or emailed to them before gaining entry to their accounts.

Paper has gone the way of the dodo, thereby making it difficult for the loved ones that Millennials leave behind to administer their digital legacy. Can you imagine your technologically inept parent trying to effectively manage your online accounts without your help? Many still have not mastered how far away their faces need to be from their webcam on a Zoom call. With so much of Millennials’ lives exclusively accessible online, it is imperative that they create an estate plan that provides for the efficient administration and distribution of their digital legacy.

There are several aspects that Millennials must consider to properly plan for their digital legacy. First, an inventory must be taken of their digital assets. They should list every online account, including: social media, email, finances, cloud storage, photos and other media, etc. The list should include the username and password associated with each account. Passcodes to all cell phones, tablets, and computers should be compiled.

Once all digital assets are identified, Millennials must decide who should be authorized to access each online account upon their deaths. These individuals are frequently known as digital executors, or simply executors. It is critical that Millennials’ digital executors be given authority to access their cell phones and email accounts, so they can obtain any verification codes needed to gain access to their online accounts.

Millennials must also direct how their digital executors should manage or distribute the data on their online accounts. For example, they should state who is to receive the digital copies of photographs, books, songs, or personal content such as poems, artwork, or manuscripts.

Interestingly, Facebook allows users to designate a legacy contact. A legacy contact can download a copy of the primary user’s activity, memorialize the profile, or delete the account – depending upon the account holder’s directions. Similarly, Google permits users to designate an Inactive Account Manager who can download account data including pictures on Google Photos.

Most other tech companies, however, do not offer this feature. Digital executors must be provided with broad authority and all necessary information to access every online account to avoid any complications, such as having to obtain a court order to gain access to, manage, and/or close the accounts.

A will is the best document to detail instructions regarding the administration of one’s digital legacy. Those that do not have a will need to retain an attorney to draft one. Those that have a will may need a digital codicil to provide direction regarding one’s digital life.

Millennials’ fear of confronting their mortality usually stems from merely commencing the estate planning process. That fear dissipates when properly counseled. In this regard, the value of an estate-planning attorney is immeasurable, particularly for Millennials seeking to safeguard their digital legacy.

Aaron Cohen is an associate in our matrimonial and trust and estates department. To contact Aaron, email him at