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Estate Planning & Digital Assets

Estate Planning & Digital Assets

In today’s digital age, online assets have become a significant part of our lives. From social media accounts to digital currencies, these assets play a crucial role in our personal and professional lives.

Just like your physical assets, it’s important to have a plan for your online assets after your demise. This is where a digital estate plan comes into play. A digital estate plan includes instructions on how to access and manage your online assets after your death.

This plan should include a list of all your online assets, their login credentials, and instructions on what to do with them. You can appoint a digital executor to carry out these instructions. Remember, this is a sensitive task, so choose someone you trust implicitly.

What Are Digital Assets?

Online assets, also known as digital assets, refer to any resource that exists in the digital realm and holds value. These can range from your email accounts and social media profiles to digital photographs, blogs, and even digital currencies like Bitcoin.

These assets can hold both monetary and sentimental value. For instance, a digital photo album may not have any financial worth, but it could hold immense emotional value for the owner. On the other hand, a Bitcoin wallet could be worth thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

Here is a list of common digital assets in today’s world:

  • Email accounts (Outlook, G-mail, Hotmail etc)
  • Digital currencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.).
  • Social media accounts (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter etc)
  • Financial accounts (including bank accounts, PayPal, Cryptocurrency, credit cards etc.)
  • Subscriptions (including Netflix, Disney Plus, Stan, Apple Music/Spotify etc.)
  • Photos (Cloud/Computer)
  • Website & Blogs (including Domain name registrar, third party hosting etc)

Accessing Online Accounts After a Person’s Death or Incapacity

It’s important to leave clear written instructions about how you want your digital assets to be treated, including information on how to access them. This is so your loved ones know about the existence of such accounts, and how you want them to be dealt with.

There are certain programs which don’t allow a transfer of ownership for an account, which is why it’s important to know the terms of any digital or online accounts ensuring instructions aren’t left which may conflict with program policies.  To help your loved ones carry out your wishes regarding your digital assets, you’ll need to give them access to your digital accounts. Keep an updated list of your accounts and passwords for your executors; we can also assist you in your estate planning appointment.

Access & Privacy Regarding Your Digital Assets

To make it easier on your executors to gain access to your digital assets after death, our estate planning lawyers recommend including a clause in your Will to identify you have digital assets which form part of your estate, and where applicable, the actions to be taken with them. In the situation that you don’t want your executors to read your emails or have access to your messages we suggest leaving instructions to delete these accounts. Or you may want to have certain photographs left to someone in your family. It’s important to note that the instructions you leave in your Will need to clearly state what you want to happen to your digital assets and how they can be accessed.

Where Do I Start?

Here are some key considerations to consider when it comes to your digital assets, and planning for your Will:

  1. Identify Your Digital Assets:
    Make a comprehensive list of all your digital assets. This includes but is not limited to:
    • Financial accounts (bank accounts, investment accounts, PayPal, etc.)
    • Digital currencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.)
    • Intellectual property (websites, blogs, digital artwork, etc.)
    • Social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
    • Email accounts
    • Cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.)
    • Digital media (photos, videos, music, etc.)
  1. Understand Terms of Service:
    Familiarize yourself with the terms of service agreements for each digital platform. Some platforms have specific policies regarding access to or transfer of accounts after death.
  1. Choose a Digital Executor:
    Appoint a trusted individual to manage your digital assets after your death. This person should be familiar with your online presence and capable of handling digital matters. It may be that this person is the same person you appoint to be executor for the rest of your Will as well.
  1. Access Information:
    Ensure your digital executor knows how to access your digital assets. This may include providing passwords, security questions, encryption keys, or instructions for accessing accounts.
  1. Document Your Wishes:
    Clearly outline your wishes for each digital asset in your estate planning documents. Specify how you want each asset to be handled after your death, whether it should be transferred to heirs, archived, or deleted.
  1. Consider Privacy Concerns:
    Be mindful of privacy concerns when planning for digital assets. Some information may be sensitive or confidential and should be handled accordingly.
  1. Backup Important Data:
    Regularly backup important digital data to ensure its preservation and accessibility to your heirs.
  1. Review and Update Regularly:
    Regularly review and update your estate plan to account for any changes in your digital assets or online accounts.
  1. Consult Legal and Financial Professionals:
    Seek guidance from legal and financial professionals experienced in estate planning and digital assets to ensure your plan is comprehensive and legally enforceable.
  1. Provide Instructions:
    Clearly communicate your wishes to your loved ones and provide instructions on how to access your digital asset inventory and estate plan in the event of your death.

Managing online assets in the modern era involves securing and organizing them, as well as planning for their future. As our lives become increasingly digital, it’s crucial to understand and implement these practices to ensure the safety and longevity of our online assets.

Your online assets hold value, whether monetary or sentimental, therefore they deserve the same level of care and attention as your physical assets. Start managing your online assets today and secure your digital legacy for the future. For an in-depth conversation about your estate planning needs, and how we can help, contact our team today.