Digital Estate Planning
Most of us are familiar with estate planning language – wills, powers of attorney, executors, assets. We focus on the tangible things like properties, investments, and cash inheritances. But what about your digital assets? What happens to your online accounts when you pass away? Who has access and who will manage them? That’s where digital estate planning comes in.
What are digital assets?
Some examples of digital assets that your estate will need to manage or destroy when you pass away:
- Email accounts
- Social media accounts
- Online banking, money transfer sites (i.e. PayPal), and online utilities accounts
- Online subscriptions, e-commerce accounts (i.e. eBay, Etsy, etc.), and gaming/betting accounts
- Website domain names and blogs
- Other personal information including photos stored on your computer or mobile device
- Online video channels where content is monetized and produces ad revenue
Much like a regular estate plan, having a written plan that catalogues your digital assets and outlines how they should be managed after your death will ensure that family photos and videos are not lost, social media accounts are deactivated or memorialized, and your heirs receive all the money you’d like to leave them. And it will save your family from lengthy probate processes in court.
How do I start digital estate planning?
Make a list of your digital assets
Note usernames and passwords for all online accounts, as well as answers to any security questions that may be required to access the accounts.
Decide how you want the assets administered
Who will receive digital assets with monetary value? What about things that do not have monetary value, such as photos and videos? Who should manage those? If you have income-generating assets or online accounts for a personal business, consider granting access to your chosen successor, or leave instructions for closing the business. You will also need to shut down or transfer access to a family member for E-commerce shops on platforms like Etsy or eBay.
Choose a digital executor
This is the person who will manage your digital assets and be responsible for carrying out your directions outlined in the previous step.
Make it legal
Consult your team of professionals to formalize your digital estate plan. Digital assets are still a relatively new asset category so the rules that govern them are still evolving. Check in regularly with your advisor to update your estate plan to accommodate any changes in the law or in your digital property. As the world increasingly moves online, digital estate planning will become even more important in the coming years. Talk to your Assante advisor today about creating or updating your estate plan to account for your digital assets.