When you put together your estate plan, your mind was on insurance policies, real estate, and family heirlooms. You carefully thought through who to name as a guardian for your children and beneficiary of your estate. These are all important aspects of estate planning, but a thorough plan also includes your digital assets.
What are Digital Assets?
The term digital assets refer to your online property such as accounts, domain names, memberships, subscriptions and files stored in the cloud. Your digital assets may include:
- Social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
- Online financial accounts (checking, savings, credit card, investments, PayPal)
- Virtual currency
- Memberships and subscription services (Amazon Prime, Netflix)
- E-commerce accounts (eBay, Etsy)
- Email and cloud-based storage (One Drive, iCloud, Google Drive)
What Happens to Digital Assets After You Die?
Unless someone knows about and has access to your accounts, nothing may happen to your digital property. That may not seem like a big deal, but think about all the information stored in these accounts. For example, you may transfer your photos from your phone to a cloud-based storage system. It’s a convenient and safe way to maximize the storage on your phone, but your photos may be lost forever if your loved ones cannot access your account.
Companies work hard to protect your information online, and this makes it difficult for your beneficiaries to access these accounts without your passwords. Criminal laws and data privacy laws designed to protect you from identity theft and fraud also restrict what information providers can share about your accounts. You don’t want a hacker to steal your Social Security number, but you also want your family to have access to your financial records—especially after your death.
Tips for Including Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan
There are several steps you can take now to start dealing with your digital assets. Make a list of all your online accounts including the company name, website, your username, and password. Decide which accounts your loved ones should be able to access and which ones you’d rather have deleted or destroyed. Choose an executor for your digital property and provide detailed instructions for what to do with each account.
Your estate plan should evolve as your circumstances and needs change. If it’s time to update your estate plan to include your digital assets, give us a call. We can help you review your documents and make sure that everything is in place so that your final wishes come true.