When it comes to end-of-life planning and their estate, most people don't even think about their digital footprint. In its simplest form, a “digital asset” is a non-physical asset that exists online in electronic format. Most clients preserve digital assets either for sentimental or financial value. Examples of digital assets that are preserved for their sentimental value include:
- Email accounts
- Social medial accounts
- Online banking accounts
- Online subscription-based accounts
- Ecommerce or marketplace accounts (i.e., Amazon, eBay, etc.)
- Photos saved online or in the cloud
- Online chatroom accounts
- 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
The importance of having a digital estate plan has grown exponentially over the past decade as technology continues to occupy our daily lives. Without an estate plan, these assets could be lost forever, or your personal security could be at risk. These possibilities lead to the question: Who has access to my online accounts, and how will those accounts be managed and distributed if I become incapacitated or pass away?
Include Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan
Through your will or financial power of attorney, you can give a legal representative the right to access your digital assets. However, standard or DIY estate forms, including wills and powers of attorney, may not refer to digital assets. We can draft clauses for your will and power of attorney that address your digital assets. The clauses in your estate documents permit your legal representative to access your online accounts and digital assets.
Through your estate plan, you direct your legal representative on how to manage each digital asset, including who inherits each asset. Depending on the size of your digital footprint, you may need a comprehensive estate plan for your digital assets. You also need to ensure that you choose a person who has the skills and experience necessary to access and manage digital assets and online accounts.
In addition, a low-tech way to protect your digital assets involves creating a letter of instructions that explains how your heirs where your digital assets are located and how they can access all your accounts. This letter may not grant them legal access per se, but it can help them get started with some basic information on the accounts you own and how to log in.
Don't leave your loved ones scrambling. With a comprehensive estate plan that includes digital assets, your family and loved ones can avoid dealing with the ordeal of losing your digital assets, having to comb through years of online account information, or filing lawsuits to gain access to these important assets. The more detailed your plan, the better off your loved ones and your online information will be when the time comes. The best way to begin is to call us today. We're here to help.