Part of proper estate planning means safeguarding not only your physical, tangible assets but your digital assets, as well. Many people do not protect these assets for a variety of reasons: a few do not think that it is important, some do not know how, and others simply do not want to think of the prospect of estate planning. However, protecting your digital assets can be easy and doing so will not only give you some peace of mind but will do so for your loved ones, too.
Why You Should Protect Digital Assets
You can do and buy just about anything online nowadays, and most of it you can accomplish with the phone in your pocket. Digital assets are more plentiful than ever, and you might not be aware of how much you have actually amassed in this form. One study by McAfee, a computer protection company, found that the average person has over $35,000 worth of digital assets on various devices that they own.
These assets include everything from sensitive financial records, personal information on social media accounts, music on iTunes and more. Digital estate planning is more than just accounting for what assets you have in digital form; it is also about protecting digital assets that have personal value. And yet, 63% of the participants surveyed in the study admit that they have no idea what will happen to it all once they pass away.
How to Protect Digital Assets
To begin, compile a list of all of your digital assets that includes everything from social media accounts, music playlists, email accounts, financial accounts, online subscriptions, retail accounts, digital payment tools like Paypal or Dwolla, and any other information that can be stored on a computer. Afterwards, put together an inventory list of all usernames and passwords that are connected to those accounts.
Once you have created a list of your digital assets, you also need a safe place to store it. You should consider both online and physical storage – whatever you feel more comfortable with. If you want to save the list online, websites like PasswordBox and apps like Dashlane can consolidate all of your online login information. You can pass on the access to these websites and apps to someone in your estate plan. If you opt to keep a physical list of your digital assets and their associated passwords, make sure that you keep it in a safe place like a safety deposit box and tell someone that you trust where to find the list once you are gone.
Extra Considerations for Digital Assets
While you are compiling your list of digital assets, also take time to look at the policies for your social media accounts and emails. For example, Facebook gives family members of deceased loved ones the option to memorialize that person’s account, downloading, or deleting it. Google’s Gmail has the option to activate an “Inactive Account Manager” that can give access to an email account to another person or delete it after a certain period of inactivity.
You should also consider whether you would like the executor of your estate to also be the executor of your digital assets. A digital executor can be appointed in your estate plan to manage all of your digital assets once you have passed. By naming a digital executor and specifically listing your wishes for your digital assets, you can ensure that your final wishes for them will be fulfilled.