By Daniel Tannenbaum
The growth of the Internet has brought about a lot of new terms associated with digital and death. This includes things like memory giving, digital assets and digital legacy. One thing that is not commonly discussed is the role of digital liabilities. For instance, we all have a lot of regular standing orders, direct debits and subscriptions that we pay for. But if we died tomorrow, who would cancel them? Who even knows about them? Could payments continue leaving our accounts for several years to come, eventually bankrupting us? Daniel Tannenbaum from Perfect Funeral Plans investigates.
Where is our money going?
We live in a consumer and material world. We love our Netflix, our gym memberships and our Graze boxes that send us treats in the post every week. But this all comes at a cost. In fact, research shows that the average American spends $857 per month on subscriptions and regular monthly payments including mobile phone bills, car insurance, health insurance and TV subscriptions like cable.
Not to mention your gym membership which can be anywhere from $50 to $150 per month and there is also going to be subscriptions that no one else would know about. Does my partner care that I pay $15 a month for World of Warcraft?
The issue with these subscriptions is what happens when you die. No doubt your main debtors will be contacted like your mortgage provider and bank, but for smaller subscriptions that have millions of customers, they probably aren’t going to know if you have passed away and your next of kin may not even know about them. Whilst we won’t have any use for our savings and income, we will certainly want to pass them onto our loved ones, families and maybe even charities of choice.
As a digital entrepreneur, I run a few websites and have a few Google Adwords campaigns running at any given point. Currently, I’m the only one with access to the accounts and am spending hundreds of dollars per month. If these accounts were not canceled, my life savings could realistically be wiped up in under a year.
A breakdown of costs per month
Health insurance – $222
Media – $150 incl. Netflix, video games, and cable
Car insurance – $125
Gym membership – $100
Graze box – $13.99
Could you be earning money after you die?
On the flipside, what about any money you could earn after you die? Again, there are likely to be things that your spouses wouldn’t take an interest in. Maybe you were selling lots of items on eBay, invested in stocks, bonds or cryptocurrencies with the plans that one day they would be worth something. Failing to tell anyone about it or leave a trace means that potential earnings will be lost too.
There have been stories about people that were early investors into cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin but have forgotten their logins or since passed away, and currently, thousands of dollars are sitting there unclaimed.
How to protect your digital liabilities
Realistically, you need to find one to two people who you really trust with your finances. This is typically your spouse, parent or sibling. In some cases, this could be your solicitor who has organized your will. You need to create a very clear list of your monthly liabilities and include a login, username, and password for each.
In the sad event that you may pass away, you don’t want your loved ones to rummage through old bank statements trying to figure out what money is coming in and out. Having one clear list on Google Docs, on paper or on email somewhere means that your next of kin can quickly bring it up and cancel any accounts quickly.
Similarly, they could have access to your investment portfolio or anything else that could make money in the future and still reap the benefits of it for years to come. This is something that could be clearly stated in you will and is a good step to managing your digital liabilities effectively.