Navigating the Digital Realm

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Incorporating Digital Assets into your Estate

Legal Lens: Reif & Hunsacker
By Jim Hunsacker

In the age of rapid technological advancement, our lives have become increasingly intertwined with digital assets. These include everything from cherished family photos stored in the cloud to cryptocurrencies to online banking accounts. Our digital footprint is vast and ever-expanding. Yet amidst this digital abundance, most individuals overlook the importance of including these assets in their estate planning.

As our reliance on digital platforms grows, so does the importance of safeguarding these assets for future generations. After you pass away, it may be very difficult and sometimes impossible for your heirs to access your digital property. Have you ever tried reaching customer service at Facebook or Instagram or DropBox?

The initial step in addressing digital assets is to compile a comprehensive inventory. Take stock of all your digital accounts and assets, noting login credentials, account numbers, and any other pertinent information. This inventory will serve as a roadmap for your executor or trustee to navigate your digital estate effectively. Password management software offers a huge advantage in this endeavor. You could write out or type a list of all of your digital logins and password information, but not only is this incredibly cumbersome, that information is constantly changing and growing. By regularly using a password management program, you can provide your digital executor with one password that will grant them access to all of your digital accounts.

Consider designating a specific digital executor. This individual should be someone you trust implicitly and who possesses the technical proficiency to manage your digital affairs. It could be the executor or personal representative nominated in your will but it might be someone else. If it is someone other than your executor/personal representative nominated in your will, make sure you spell out this separate fiduciary in your will. While your traditional executor may excel in handling physical assets, digital assets require a different skill set altogether.

With your digital executor in place, it’s crucial to articulate your desires and preferences regarding each digital asset in your estate plan. Do you wish for certain accounts to be closed upon your passing, or would you prefer them to be transferred to specific beneficiaries? Be explicit in outlining your intentions to avoid confusion or disputes down the line. WRITE IT DOWN and keep it with your other estate planning documents.

Social media accounts warrant special consideration in estate planning. Many platforms have established protocols for handling accounts after the user’s death, ranging from memorialization to outright deletion. Familiarize yourself with the policies of each platform and include instructions for how you’d like your social media accounts to be managed in your estate plan.

Regularly review and update your digital estate plan. Just as your life evolves, so too will your digital footprint. You will inevitably acquire new assets, new accounts, change passwords, and update your preferences. Be sure to reflect these changes in your estate plan to maintain its relevance and efficacy.

Being proactive is important.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information and content in this article is for general informational purposes only.