What Should I Prioritize in My Digital Estate Plan?

Digital estate plan
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Your digital estate plan should satisfy your needs.

We live in a largely digital world.

Agreed?

Few people can avoid electronics completely.

Some people have fully and happily embraced the digital world.

Others simply adopt only what is necessary for daily life.

According to a recent Next Avenue article titled “Why You Need a Digital Estate Plan and How to Make One,” both require a digital estate plan.

You should have a digital estate plan for your apps and accounts.
Your apps and accounts should be included in your digital estate plan.

Failing to do so will leave a mess for your loved ones.

(Just think about the last time you forgot your password.)

Yikes!

With the growing digital landscape, almost all 50 states have passed laws giving an attorney in fact, executor or trustee the right to manage and access certain digital assets after the incapacity or death of the account owner.

Even so, some platforms may still reserve the right to deny access to these authorized parties.

Certain media companies have created their own methods for granting such permissions.

Facebook allows you to designate a “Legacy Contact” if you die, and Google provides the option for an “Inactive Account Manager.”

For other accounts, can you simply share your passwords or set up an online password manager?

Not necessarily.

You should take more creative and comprehensive steps for your digital estate plan.

Why?

Many platforms are increasing security measures.

For this reason, they often require confirmation codes.

These typically must be sent to an email address or mobile phone to access an account.

Should the email or phone be locked, regaining access to these accounts may be impossible.

These security measures may be great for protection against digital criminals, but they also may work against your loves ones.

What should you consider as your create your digital estate plan?

List each account and rank its importance.

Would your life be significantly impacted if the account and its contents were deleted and removed?

Are there credentials needed to access other accounts?

Are there automatic payments being made from the account for subscriptions or credit cards?

Do you still use this account?

Is it an email you have not touched for ten years?

What accounts do you require and use for your business and personal life?

List any of these emails, checking accounts, or savings accounts.

Do you like to read?

Perhaps you have acquired an extensive digital library.

Do you participate in online gaming?

Would you like these assets be managed and maintained?

Consider your automatic payments.

These could quickly drain part of your estate if they are not shut down.

After you have identified all of the important accounts for your digital estate plan, you will need to research whether each has its own legacy process.

With this in mind, think about and decide what you would like to happen to the accounts and their contents if you die or become incapacitated.

An experienced estate planning attorney in your state will know the specific laws governing a digital estate plan where you reside.

A bit of universal advice from any state is this: do not include usernames or passwords in your last will and testament.

Why?

A last will and testament becomes a public document when it enters probate.

And probate is required for the last will to become legally active.

Including this information would undermine any efforts to protect your accounts through your digital estate plan.

Reference: Next Avenue (Jan. 1, 2021) “Why You Need a Digital Estate Plan and How to Make One”

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