Digital Asset Planning – What You Need to Know
We live so much of our lives today in a “digital world.” Many of our day-to-day activities are online. We communicate with family and friends, shop, pay bills and work online. No paper, just usernames, and passwords. You may have not thought about it but who can access your online accounts and how will they be managed in the event you become disabled or pass away? Who would even know what assets you have if you only work with them online and never get a paper statement? Having a digital estate plan is now not an option, but a must for everyone. Over 90 percent of Americans don't know what happens to their digital assets when they die, and over half of Baby Boomers with children don't have a will at all.
What are Digital Assets?
A digital asset can be a wide variety of electronic records and files that are stored online, on mobile devices, or on personal computers. Simply put, almost anything you keep a digital record of is considered a digital asset and something that should be noted in your digital Estate Plan.
To clarify further, a digital asset can include any of the following:
Social media accounts
Online bank, credit card, brokerage, retirement plan, credit, loan, insurance and other accounts you access to manage your money and pay your bills
Online retailer accounts
Online subscription-based accounts
Ecommerce or marketplace accounts (i.e. Amazon, eBay, iTunes, etc.)
Photos and video sharing sites like YouTube or photos saved on the cloud
Cell phone apps
Online dating or gaming accounts
Online accounts for utilities
Loyalty program benefits (i.e. frequent flyer miles, credit card perks, etc.)
Any other personal information you store on your computer, cell phone, or tablet
Why Should I Care about Digital Assets?
What will happen to your social media accounts (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) page when you're gone? How about the personal emails you've sent and received? Online photo albums? The files on your laptop? Your PayPal or Venmo accounts? How would your Executor know where you have accounts or how to access them to manage your Estate? Nowadays, our 'real' and digital experiences are so intertwined that it's important to plan for what happens to your online "paper trail."
Making an inventory of and creating your digital estate plan (think of it as a Will for your digital assets) will relieve your family members and loved ones from the added stress that arises after a death. When your family can rely on a written plan that outlines the passwords for your digital assets as well as how those assets should be managed, they won’t have to worry about navigating a more extensive probate court process.
Consider Appointing a Digital Executor
If you have a Will, you’ve named an executor to follow the instructions in your Will about how you want your assets to be managed and distributed after you pass away. A digital executor is someone who can carry out your digital asset plan after you pass away. Your digital executor not only needs to be trustworthy, but also tech-savvy enough to be able to follow through with your instructions, so choose wisely.
Think About Instructions for Your Digital Assets
Your Will probably lays out the distribution of your financial assets, but what do you want to happen to your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram profiles? Consider leaving a letter of instruction or a “to-do” list to let your digital executor know, among other things, what they should do with your accounts. Include information such as:
Should your digital executor deactivate your Facebook and other social media accounts when you die, or do you want them to set it up as a memorial page?
Should your executor to send digital photos you’ve saved in the cloud or sharing site to family members?
Do you want to give someone control of any unused iTunes credits you have?
Do you want any personal videos uploaded to YouTube for friends and family to see (or taken off of YouTube so they don’t see them)?
Do you want your personal emails deleted or retained and given to someone?
By creating a digital Estate Plan, you are protecting your online assets from risks like identity theft, hacking, and fraud. You are also giving your family greater peace of mind (as well as access to important information like financial documents and insurance paperwork.)
To learn more about estate planning options, or to talk about updating your existing estate plan, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Fiffik Law Group for a free, no-obligation consultation appointment. Or get started today by filling out our online Will Questionnaire.