Digital estate planning is essential for certain assets.
The world has changed rapidly in the past several decades.
With the invention of the internet and personal computers, the digital world has exploded.
People can send mail, messages, and money digitally.
Pictures can be stored, videos streamed, and personal profiles and channels curated.
According to a recent Daily Herald article titled “Everything you need to know about digital estate planning,” each of these assets and outlets requires planning for what happens to them when you die.
Your digital assets should be included in your digital estate plan.
What are digital assets?
These include email accounts, online subscription services, social media, blogs, online business, cryptocurrency, web domains, websites, gambling websites, gaming accounts, and personal photos or videos stored online.
Many of these accounts have their own guidelines and rules.
These are often included in the terms of service agreement one must sign when opening an account.
Although many people simply click “agree” without reading the lengthy text, a thorough review would prove beneficial.
These terms of agreement serve as a legally-binding contract between the user and the platform.
In many instances the company includes provisions about what happens when the owner dies such as terminating the account without considering of the wishes of the owner or the value of the digital property.
Keeping records of user agreements can be beneficial to digital estate planning.
Because of the growth of digital assets, many states have adopted legislation to address the fate of digital assets after a personal had died.
Although these state laws often grant the executor or representative of the estate access to digital information, the tech companies do not always agree.
The companies often site protections of the privacy of the owner as the reasons for not sharing content with the executor or family member.
Even if the executor has access to passwords and usernames, they may find the account and content has been deleted or may be accused of committing fraud through using the credentials of another person.
The big tech companies will often state the companies are not legally permitted to share content or data with another.
People may lose millions in cryptocurrency as well as priceless family photos.
Even police departments have struggled to get evidence from digital platforms.
What digital estate planning can you do?
First, you should begin by appointing a digital executor in your last will and testament.
Provide this person with the means to gain access to your digital assets.
To do so, you will need to create a digital asset inventory as part of your digital estate planning.
You can use a program online, a paper and pen, or a spreadsheet on your computer.
If you do use a spreadsheet, encrypt it to protect it from being stolen or hacked.
Update the inventory each time you make a change to your username or password.
Next, decide what you would like to have happen to each asset when you die.
Do you want to shut down your Facebook account immediately or have it serve as a memorialized account for a time?
Review the platforms you use and their policies.
Certain accounts have a process in place for designating an executor.
When leaving information on your digital assets, do not include these in your last will and testament.
Because this becomes a public document in probate, so anyone could gain access.
Through digital estate planning, you can organize your digital assets to simplify the process as much as possible when you die.
Reference: Daily Herald (Nov. 10, 2021) “Everything you need to know about digital estate planning”