With technology gaining a more and more prominent role in our everyday lives, new challenges arise when individuals pass on and leave behind intangible digital assets. So what is the best way to prepare your digital assets for your death, so that family members can assess and distribute these accounts and profiles where appropriate?
Unlike the more conventional assets that would be included in an estate plan, digital assets can be a lot harder to track down once someone passes away. Digital assets leave behind no paper trail to follow, and your family members might not even know an account exists or where it is located.
Below we’ve created a list of ways you can help your family members and friends navigate your digital landscape after you’ve passed on. With a little preparation and careful thought, you may be able to ensure that your digital legacy – much like your real-life one – is protected for the future.
How to Prepare Your Digital Asset Plan
The first step in ensuring your digital legacy will be passed on is to take a full inventory of all the digital assets you have. While gathering these together, make sure to note all the usernames and passwords for your various accounts and keep a clear record.
Your digital asset catalog may include properties like:
- Email accounts
- Social media profiles
- Online documents
- Chat logs
- Digital photos
- Credit cards with reward points
- Frequent flyer miles
- Stock trading
- Online bank accounts
Next, you need to determine where to safely store the inventory list you’ve created. Currently, there is an emerging trend towards “Digital Legacy Services,” which purport to keep and preserve all of your digital accounts and assets. However, these services are relatively new, so their level of security protection may vary dramatically. You should be wary of any startup service that offers to store all your important digital information, as these companies present a perfect target for hackers.
A safer alternative is to write down all your usernames and passwords on physical paper, and store this information with a family member, or in a safety deposit box at the bank. You may want to choose the person who you’ve designated as your Personal Representative in your will. Of course, you’ll need to make sure you update this information regularly, as digital passwords frequently change. It’s also a good idea to include the location of your digital asset list in your will.
Integrating Your Digital Plan with Your Estate Plan
Lastly, you want to make sure all your digital assets will be distributed according to your wishes after you die. By talking to your attorney now about your digital distribution wishes, you’ll be able to include them in your estate planning documents and ensure that you have peace of mind for the future.
In addition, most individuals have some type of social presence online. Some social media companies like Facebook allow you to designate a “legacy contact,” or someone who can access your account in case of your death. A great person to designate as a legacy contact is the same person who you have designated as your Personal Representative in your will. This will allow them to make sure friends and family members are informed of your passing, and to arrange for attendance at any memorial services.
If you have concerns about how to adequately prepare your digital assets for your death, or need assistance accessing the digital assets of a loved one that has passed, feel free to contact Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. at (720) 809-8310 today to speak with an attorney.