Digital Estate Planning
Traditional estate planning is focused around what will happen to your physical assets in the event of your death—providing clarity and peace of mind when you and your family need it most. As our lives become increasingly digital, it is imperative to account for our assets and information that exist in the cyberworld with a digital estate plan—allowing you to ensure that all of your assets, both tangible and intangible, are accounted for in the event of the unexpected.
Why having a digital estate plan in place matters: It’s now extremely common to manage our finances, business and personal lives online. Unfortunately, few people have their digital assets (websites, blogs, music, writing, business websites, cryptocurrency, etc.) and digital information (email, social media and banking accounts) stored in a centralized location for easy access. If your estate plan does not properly account for those assets, your heirs may not be able to gain access to them. By having a clear digital estate plan in place, you’ll provide clarity for your family/executor on how you wish your affairs to be handled.
Digital Estate Planning Tips:
- Record all digital assets, their passwords and storage locations: It’s best for you to keep a running list of the digital assets and information under your ownership. Be sure to continuously update this document as you gain new accounts and information, or as passwords change.
- Write instructions for your executors describing how your cyber life should be handled: In these instructions, you should explicitly outline how you would like your digital life handled after your death. Be sure to identify your executors, giving them the authority to access and manage digital assets. Explicitly state whether you would like accounts transferred, deleted or memorialized. Do your best to remove any doubts or guessing.
- Back up your data: If you store your digital assets in the cloud, be sure to back them up to a local computer or external storage device on a regular basis—this will serve as another layer of preservation. On most files, it’s suggested that you have a frequently scheduled automatic backup. This is a good practice to follow throughout your lifetime to ensure you never lose access to important digital files.
- Prepare or revise your estate planning documents to address digital assets and information: Ensure that all documents—including wills, powers of attorney and trusts—authorize an individual as the executor for your digital estate. Include language that gives your chosen executor the authority to access, control, use, cancel, deactivate or delete your accounts and assets. By doing so, your executor will gain legal consent to use your password and login information, allowing them to avoid potential accusations of hacking your accounts.