In a previous post, our blog discussed how every company you work with online has their unique terms of service that must be accounted for in estate planning. While this is certainly a very important consideration, it perhaps begs the broader question of what steps a person can take to ensure that their digital assets are properly documented, organized and otherwise accessible in the event of their untimely demise.
While you might be tempted to dismiss the entire idea of estate planning for digital assets, stop and consider just how significant your online profile actually is. For starters, you more than likely have bank accounts and brokerage accounts that are accessed primarily online, and multiple email accounts in which you store valuable and highly personal correspondence.
In addition, you might have multiple social media accounts, online libraries consisting of a sizeable collection of music, movies and books, and online subscriptions to multiple publications or media providers.
Given this reality, it rapidly becomes very easy to see just how important it is to have a digital estate plan in place.
While the exact components of a digital estate plan will vary from person to person, experts indicate that the following two steps can at least form a solid foundation:
- Create an inventory: As a first step, experts encourage people to consider creating a password-protected spreadsheet with multiple descriptive column headings (name, web address, user ID, password, etc.) and simply filling in the necessary information regarding anything you believe to be of any value (financial, sentimental or otherwise). Given the obvious security concerns associated with creating a document like this, however, experts advise storing a hard copy somewhere safe or storing it on a secure online storage site (being certain to investigate multiple options beforehand).
- Name a "trustee" for your digital assets: As with any element of estate planning, experts advise you to give careful consideration to the person(s) you appoint to manage your digital estate plan. If you feel uncomfortable giving a trustee full access while you are still alive, experts indicate that this can be remedied by simply providing them with enough information to know where and how to access the aforementioned document.
It should be noted that experts also strongly encourage people to discuss the disposition of their digital assets with a qualified legal professional as part of a comprehensive estate plan. That's because they can inform you of any state laws of which you should be aware and help ensure that the plans you have in place for your digital assets are sufficient.
Have you made plans for your digital assets? If so, what was your experience like?
Source: CNBC, "Protect online assets with a digital estate plan," Thomas Henske, May 19, 2014