Your digital assets may be just as important to you and your beneficiaries as your financial and real estate assets.
There’s your email, blog and social media accounts, for example, which may contain crucial information along with more personal assets like photos and writings. You may own a website that would need to be continued or monitored after your death. And that doesn’t even begin to cover any bank accounts, investment accounts and cryptocurrency accounts. And what about your phone?
The digital age has changed how people handle their lives. Many people manage virtually all of their finances online, with direct deposits, auto-pay and electronic transfers. If you died or became incapacitated, would someone be able to find all your passwords? Would they even know which accounts existed to be accessed?
You need to update your estate plan to take digital assets into account
Consider these facts about digital assets from a recent article in Forbes:
- Worldwide, the average person has over $35,000 in digital assets. In the U.S., according to a 2013 study by McAfee, the average person has about $55,000.
- Many digital assets may have great sentimental value. These include photos and videos along with emails between family members, online genealogies and more.
- Leaving digital assets un-curated after death can put them at risk for use in identity theft, impersonation schemes or fraud. You can’t afford to ignore your digital assets.
The first step toward protecting your digital assets is to make a list of all your accounts and their login information. This should be kept in a secure place like a fire-proof safe, but it should also be updated whenever anything changes.
Never leave a list of your logins and passwords lying around, and don’t include the list in your will, as that could become public upon your death.
On this list, you should also indicate which accounts should be transferred upon your death, which should be memorialized and which should be deleted.
Be aware that each site or app has its own terms of service agreement. Most of these restrict the sharing or transfer of your online accounts to anyone, even upon your death. To the extent possible, you should give a designated person specific authority to access your digital assets and note on your list any accounts with restrictions.
Your existing will and estate plan, including any powers of attorney for financial purposes, should be specifically updated to allow for online management of your accounts.
Getting your digital assets in order can prevent delays and losses when you die or become incapacitated. Sit down with an estate planning lawyer as soon as possible to bring your estate plan up to date.