This is a quick update with some links to sample forms for naming a DNA beneficiary. FamilyTree DNA provides this service at their site, although depending on the laws where you live, it may or may not be enforceable legally. For any of the linked forms you will need to either understand the laws where you live or contact a attorney for legal advice. Nothing in this blog is intended as legal advice.
The Problem with Dying
Even if you’re on your A-game and have prepped for death, one problem with preparing for death in 2019 is the law hasn’t completely kept up with the technology. You can visit The Digital Beyond and read their book Your Digital Afterlife to better understand the problem. There’s a great site in the UK, The Digital Legacy Association with free resources, including this spreadsheet for digital accounts.
Basically the problem is, we now live in a digital age and we have no idea how private companies will decide to manage our digital accounts in the future. We can leave instructions for our wishes for these accounts, and that will give our posterity some direction as to our intentions, but we don’t truly know what our digital rights will be at some future date and estate preparation is just beginning to include digital asset planning.
Everplans, based in the US, has a thorough article (if you scroll down to the bottom, state-by-state) showing you which states have passed laws giving your personal representative or executor the right to manage your digital assets. If you live in the UK, The Digital Legacy Association may be a good place to start. In other countries, I’m not sure, but it probably comes down to doing your own research and then contacting an attorney who is knowledgeable about estate planning AND digital estate planning. Most states include your digital assets as part of your estate and unless you specifically name a different person as your DNA Beneficiary, it may be managed by your estate executor, depending on the laws where you live and the rules of the DNA testing company. So, check out the laws where you live, hire an attorney to draw up legal forms, or do it yourself with some of the examples below.
Ways to Designate & Sample Forms for Naming a DNA Beneficiary
We paid for estate planning papers before digital assets were a thing so we’re going to draw up our own document, have it signed, witnessed, and notarized, and keep it with the estate papers and with the the named DNA Beneficiary.
Some Sample Forms and options for creating your own DNA Beneficiary Form:
- Blaine Bettinger, an attorney and DNA genealogist, has created a free sample DNA Beneficiary Designation form — this is not legal advice.
- Here is a Permission Form and Designation of Beneficiary by Debbie Parker Wayne, adapted from Blaine Bettinger’s form–this is not legal advice
- FamilyTreeDNA has a printable DNA Beneficiary Designation form for accounts at their site (I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to share it because they don’t have a publicly accessible blank version but you may be able to see a version of it with this google image search)–this is not legal advice
- Our attorney said for our purposes we could type up a document with the gist of it being–and this is not legal advice, hire a lawyer if you want that:
DNA Beneficiary Designation
“I, First Name Last Name of Complete Street Address appoint First Name Last Name as the sole beneficiary of my stored DNA, upon my death or incapacitation, at Name of Testing Company, identified as Kit number or other identifying information for your DNA, and grant said beneficiary the right to access and personally manage these digital accounts and assets including the contents thereof. The Beneficiary may perform any and all lawful acts that I did or could have performed.”
Then, (1) If you want your beneficiary to be able to use your DNA for purposes that don’t currently exist (wanna be cloned?), you may want to add some wording to that effect. (2) You can include logins and passwords but don’t include them on this form if any other person will be keeping a copy of this form or if this form will be filed publicly as part of your will or estate plan. (3) Include any signatory/witness statements/notary lines to this form and have this person sign the document in the presence of a legal notary and have two unrelated people who are not beneficiaries of the digital assets/estate witness the signature and sign as well, in the notary’s presence. In the US, any bank will provide a legal notary, usually for free, for patrons of that bank. A bank will not provide two extra witnesses. Most banks are prohibited from providing witnesses, they can only provide the notary, so you need to drag in a couple willing friends/neighbors to witness this document. Maybe you can go in with a group of friends and each witness each other’s digital beneficiary designation form. Tell everyone to get their digital affairs in order at the same time. And, again, none of this is legal advice, just opinionated commentary.
In the US you can usually hire an estate attorney to draw up a Will, Living Will, Trust, etc for $500-600 and you should now insist that some digital asset planning be included. Estate Attorneys provide these package plans. Digital asset planning wasn’t included when we drew our papers up so we’ll either draw up our own, using some of the above examples, or we’ll pay hourly attorney fees to have the extra paperwork drawn up. I should’ve been an attorney. 🤦♀️
While You’re At It
Some Digital Asset Resources to Consider (if you have social media accounts, email accounts, DNA accounts, digitized photo accounts, etc)
Below are a few sites I’ve listed at OnGenealogy.
- Everplans – US-based free state-by-state guides, worksheets, checklists, fee for other services
- DeadSocial – US-based free site that provides tools & resources for managing your digital assets now & when you die
- The Digital Beyond – US-based blog focused on digital asset planning, many resources listed, RootsTech presenter
- The Digital Legacy Association – UK-based free site offers many resources for digital asset planning
- Digital Remains – UK-based site helps you include digital assets in your last will & testament, fee for services
- Estate Map – based in US, $4.95 per plan – you fill out a questionnaire, it gives you a downloadable plan with all your accounts & instructions – does not currently provide legal documents such as wills, etc.
These are a few US based sites that store your estate info online and some alert beneficiaries when you die.
- LegacyArmour – encrypted estate planning documents for a fee, including DNA & other digital assets, delivers info to beneficiaries at death or incapacitation
- DocuBank – encrypted estate and health directives registry – delivers access to beneficiaries
- Directives Online – encrypted, online access to your estate documents, health directives, etc, allows controlled access to some documents for beneficiaries, etc.
- AfterVault – encrypted estate planning tool & backup company that alerts a beneficiary when you no longer respond to emails/pings/pre-determined welfare checks