A digital estate plan focuses on your digital assets rather than physical or financial assets. In a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on digital and online platforms, everything is changing. Estate planning is no exception. In addition to having estate planning for your physical and financial assets, you need to have a plan for your digital estate. Find out what your digital estate includes and what to include in your digital estate plan as you keep reading.
What is a Digital Estate Plan?
A digital estate plan, in contrast to a regular estate plan, focuses on your digital assets rather than physical or financial assets. This has become more and more important in the growing digital age. To lose all of those assets after you die, or for them to be inaccessible by your loved ones, is preventable. Your digital estate plan will account for all of your digital assets, who will have access to your online accounts, and how your electronic records should be handled. These assets can sometimes be forgotten in the midst of other arrangements, but they can be just as valuable and should be considered with the same time and care.
Why is a Digital Estate Plan Important?
As with all estate plans, a digital estate plan will prevent your family from having to take on the additional responsibility of locating and deciding what will happen to certain assets after you are gone. This protects them, as well as your own digital legacy. It prevents your accounts from being hacked after you’ve passed away, which grants both you and your family peace of mind. Most importantly, you want to protect your assets so you do not lose them. If you neglect to make a digital estate plan, your family could lose precious photos, videos and other items of significant sentimental value.
What is Included in Your Digital Estate Plan?
- Social Media
- Gaming accounts and associated assets
- Online dating apps
- Blog content
Subscriptions and Marketplaces
- Streaming services
- Monthly/yearly subscriptions
- Amazon, eBay, and other marketplaces you have accounts with
- Loyalty program benefits
- Photo and video storage
- Contact lists
- Utility accounts
- Domain names
- Audio files
These are all great places to begin. It’s possible, and likely, that not everything on this list applies to you. However, it is important to consider the assets that do!
What are the Steps to Creating a Digital Estate Plan?
Now that you know what can be included in your estate plan, how do you move forward? The first thing you want to do is take an inventory of all your digital assets, including everything listed above. Once you have your list of assets, you need to decide what to do with them! Standard Estate planning, such as your Will and a Power of Attorney, includes a clause regarding such assets, but if your Executor does not know about them, they may be lost.
As you draft your digital estate plans, you should be aware of some common obstacles you may face during the process. The biggest problem you’ll come across is data privacy laws and restrictions from specific platforms that are included in user agreements. These laws prevent people from accessing users’ online data, and is typically a positive thing, but can make it difficult for families to access digital accounts or information after you’re gone. This is why it’s important to provide passwords. You may also run into trouble if your data is encrypted. The best way to avoid this and to make the process as smooth as possible for your family is to specify your consent to their access to your information in your digital estate plan.
If you have any further questions about digital assets and how to include in your estate planning, please contact Ward, Shindle & Hall.