So maybe you recently became a cryptocurrency millionaire or have a successful online business — or maybe, like me, you just have an email and social media accounts. What happens to each of these digital assets when you die? Without proper planning, these assets can fall into the wrong hands or worse – be lost forever. To ensure digital assets pass along to the appropriate parties, including specific provisions in your estate plan are crucial.
What are digital assets?
Digital assets are electronic accounts and property that you own or have authorized access to. Digital assets include, but are not limited to online businesses (including blogs, Instagram accounts, websites with click-through fees), PayPal/Venmo accounts, e-books, cryptocurrencies, domain names, and files and photos stored in the cloud.
Why is it important to include digital assets in my estate plan?
Accessing digital assets such as email or online accounts bring about countless privacy issues. Stemming from privacy laws originating in the 1980’s, the unauthorized accessing of a digital asset it is now a criminal offense. This makes proper planning crucial – to ensure your friends and family can properly access your accounts without needing to challenge stringent computer fraud and abuse laws.
How can I be sure the right individuals inherit my digital assets?
When considering your tangible assets such as your car or home, I’m sure you have a plan in place for who receives which assets and when. It’s important to give your digital assets the same forethought.
For account access, you can utilize password management systems such as LastPass, Dashlane, or 1Password to consolidate all your passwords, then include access to these systems in your Will. Alternatively, you can divide parts of your passwords among friends and loved ones to come together and decrypt following your passing.
Some companies are looking to assist in the process. The search engine giant Google recently announced an inactive account management feature, which modifies your account once it has been inactive for a specified period of time. Once an account has been inactive for say, 3 or 6 months, account credentials are then sent to an authorized party so that they may access your accounts or delete them entirely. Facebook has created a legacy contact feature to grant a “beneficiary” limited authority to create posts, make minor modifications to your account or have it deleted. These settings can be vital if your social media or email accounts contain any sensitive information or are used for business purposes. These features also come in handy when your email is used to verify and reset passwords to other websites and apps.
As the years progress, we continue to accumulate more and more digital assets, online accounts, smartphone apps, and an insurmountable list of logins and passwords. It’s vital that we include these assets in our estate plan to ensure they are passed to the proper parties – so that your digital legacy can live on – as you wanted, while saving your loved ones time and stress in the process.
After all, who do you want sifting through your texts, accounts, and browser history?
To understand how your digital assets are currently being handled, please reach out to a member of Round Table to review your estate documents and initiate a discussion on how you want your digital assets to be managed.