It is wise to organize digital assets before you die.
The world we live in has changed significantly since the invention of computers and the creation of the internet.
Now most individuals and businesses have an online presence to some degree whether this be through social media, websites, or email.
In addition to these, shopping and entertainment have also shifted to a higher online presence.
According to a recent USA Today article titled “Don’t leave grieving relatives searching for your passwords: Here’s how to organize your digital life before you die,” most people have no idea what will happen to their digital assets when they die.
Without a plan, your loved ones or business partners could battle tech companies for access to your media.
What can you do?
First, inventory your digital assets.
Do you have digital photos and videos?
How many email accounts do you have?
Do you own or use website domains, video games, social media accounts, or online financial accounts or banking platforms?
A good way to determine what to list?
Anything online that requires a password for access.
Once you have a list of your digital assets, include the usernames and passwords for the accounts.
You will also need to include the two-factor authentication information if the account utilizes this security measure.
Some accounts require biometric access.
These will require special permissions and advance planning through the platform management company.
Once you have created this inventory of your digital assets with the pertinent information, you will need to express your wishes in your general durable power of attorney, last will and testament, and (if you have one) your revocable living trust.
Many states have legislation specifically addressing the treatment of digital assets in estate planning.
Working with an experienced estate planning attorney is vital to both understanding and meeting specific requirements based on your state of residence.
Some platforms do provide options for managing the account after the death of the owner.
For example, PayPal, Facebook, Google, and several other sites allow an individual to designate a legacy contact to have some access to the account, receive information about the account, and delete the account after the death of the owner.
Often this option would be the most simple.
Certain platforms will permanently delete and wipe the content of accounts after a certain time of inactivity.
You will likely want to have an agent access and save relevant information and content from your accounts.
For social media accounts, designate those accounts you want deleted or closed when you die.
Cybercriminals often use social media accounts to access financial accounts or steal your identity.
After you have inventoried your digital assets, gathered the account information, and included instructions in your estate plan, you should store the important information securely with your estate planning documents.
You may also want to ask whether your financial advisor maintains or recommends an online portal for storing and accessing important document anywhere in the world should you need them.
Taking steps now to organize your digital assets will leave your loved ones with less stress and more memories when you pass away.
Reference: USA Today (Nov. 25, 2020) “Don’t leave grieving relatives searching for your passwords: Here’s how to organize your digital life before you die”