Like it or not, our world is infatuated with technology. Smartphones conduct intercontinental transactions. Friends across the country communicate through instantaneous text messaging, and telephones and tablets close distances and miles through face to face conversations. Because technology plays such an important role in our daily lives, today’s estate planning should include an arrangement for organizing and protecting technological and digital assets.
Dividing Up Digital Assets
We have frequently discussed how there are different kinds of digital assets to think about when drafting your estate plan. First, there are your personal digital assets, which would include any email accounts, personal social media accounts and maybe even a personal web site or personal blog. Personal digital assets might also include any photos or documents stored on different websites, like Snapfish, Shutterfly or Dropbox. Information stored in any cloud storage should also be considered personal digital assets.
Along with personal digital assets, there are also financial digital assets, which would include any online banking or financial account information. Many people choose to pay their bills electronically, and even automatically, through their banking system or their bank’s website. Others may use a company’s website to pay their bills directly through that site, such as paying a monthly credit card bill using the bank’s credit card website or using a utility company’s online billpay system. Often, paying bills can be a mass of online passwords, dates and accounts. Any of these passwords, or the information contained in any of these accounts, would be considered your financial digital assets.
Finally, there are your business digital assets, which would include anything related to your business itself or business records.
Planning for Digital Assets
So how do you include your digital assets as part of your estate plan in this age of technology?
Organization is the first step. First, you need to begin organizing your digital assets, so that you know what digital accounts and information you have. Begin to take note of all of your different accounts and passwords, and explore a safe, secure and easy solution for storing your passwords, as explained in this Forbes article. Once you have this list, you will also want to update it frequently with new accounts or password changes. In your organization, you may also want to consider which information you’d like family members to be able to access, like family photographs or important family documents, and create a space in cloud storage for multiple family members to access.
After you’ve organized your accounts and information, you’ll likely want to think about how these accounts and information within these accounts should be handled after your own passing. For example, do you want your social media site to live on after your own passing? Or would you rather it be deactivated? After you’ve thought through how you’d like this information handled after your passing, then you should incorporate instructions regarding this information into your estate planning. It may be wise to ensure that your estate planner, as well as your executor, knows how to access your organized list of online accounts with passwords, and your instructions for the accounts and information. With a bit of forethought, organization and planning, your digital assets can be a well thought out part of your overall estate plan.