In today’s technologically advanced society, it’s important to stop and consider what will happen to your digital assets once you are no longer here to maintain them. An all-encompassing definition of “digital assets” does not exist, but the phrase most often refers to digital content or online accounts an individual owns or uses. Do you own a website domain name? Run an Etsy company? Write a blog? Have a Paypal account? Have an iTunes account full of music that you paid for? Have you stored your photos electronically? Do you an online-only checking account? Invest in an online-only investing account? If so, then continue reading; this article provides helpful information to allow you to plan ahead.
The “internet estates” of today have raised complex issues in the world of estate planning. As technology continues to advance and we become more and more reliant on it, it’s important to make an estate plan that recognizes your digital presence and how you want these aspects of your estate to be handled. Here are a few steps to consider in making sure your digital assets are properly protected and accounted for:
1. Take inventory of your assets
Every year, write down exactly where your digital assets are stored. This could include physical hard drives, electronic devices such as laptops, tablets, or e-readers, as well as online accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Paypal, email accounts, banking accounts, investment accounts, etc. If you enjoy online shopping, think of the websites where you may have stored your credit card information. If your assets cannot be found or identified, it will make it more difficult for your wishes to be properly executed and your assets to be passed on are not protected.
2. Keep your passwords in a safe place
Organizing your digital estate breaks one of the most important rules of cyber-security – keeping your passwords completely secret. In order to properly plan for the handling of your digital assets it is necessary to keep a list of your important passwords in a safe place and format. There are websites that will store and protect your passwords for you, or you can simply document your passwords yourself and keep them in a locked safety deposit box. If you change your passwords frequently, be sure to update your list of passwords at least annually so as to keep your list current.
3. Decide who you want to be in charge of your digital estate
Your tech-savvy child may not be the one you would want handling your estate or finances, but he or she may be just the one you would want to handle your digital assets. Consider who you would want to sit down and sort through your online accounts. Some of this information may be very personal. Make sure it is someone who you trust to properly handle your online presence in accordance with your wishes. Depending on the type of digital assets you leave behind, once you decide on the proper person to handle your assets you may want to let them know.
4. Make your wishes clear and put them in your will
Like any other aspect of your estate, you want to make your wishes clear. Clarity is no less important for digital assets. Be specific in how you want your digital estate to be handled and put it in your will.
** Disclaimer: Viewing and/or use of the information contained in this blog post does not establish an attorney/client relationship and should not be considered legal advice. This post is meant to provide general information on certain legal topics and is not to be construed as creating any sort of attorney-client relationship.