“The last thing anyone wants to see is all of that hard work negated at the end of their life. I’ve said this a million times but stop putting off your estate planning and deal with it today!”
That’s because today we have an entirely new type of property that must be dealt with in estate planning. Unlike tangible property that people have been handing down for centuries, this is a relatively new kind of property: digital assets. One of the problems with digital assets is that, unlike paper documents, your family members can’t simply sift through decades of physical records to find out what you own. The online world is endless, and if they don’t know what websites to look at, there’s simply no way that they can find your digital assets.
What is a digital asset? They include such things as:
Mobile devices, like cell phones, laptops and tablets
Email accounts—all of them
Social media profiles including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
Sites that contain music, photos and other personal information
Your personal desktop
Online banking, investment accounts and cybercurrency
Online gaming accounts
Online bill paying, like utilities, EZ-Pass and any automatic payments
Websites or blogs
You’ll want to let your executor know what you want to be done with your digital assets. Some platforms have the ability for you to express your wishes for your digital assets, like Facebook. What do you want to happen to your pages when you are gone? Do you want people to be able to see your pages, or to post on them? Would you want them to be taken down a month after you pass, or left up permanently?
You’ll need to list out all your digital assets, your username and your passwords and provide a directive to specifically state what you want to happen to each website. Yes, it will take time and it may be tedious, but imagine how challenging it will be for your family members to try to track down all your digital assets. Speak with your estate planning attorney as to how to share this information—but don’t put it in a will, because your will becomes a public document if your estate goes through probate (which happens to most wills).
Just as you have taken the time to have an estate plan created, making sure to have a digital assets plan is a gift to your loved ones. With these details taken care of, your family will be able to focus their attention on taking care of each other, dealing with your estate and going through the grief process. You’ll have spared them a lot of additional stress and expenses.
An estate planning attorney will be well worth the investment. You can be confident that your will is going to be prepared in accordance with the laws of your state, and that your family will be protected as you wished.
Reference: The Press of Atlantic City (July 4, 2019) “Estate planning for your digital and cyber assets”