To best answer this question, you must first understand the exact makeup of your digital assets. Depending on your age and level of online engagement, your digital assets may be very simple or highly complex and diversified.
Digital assets can be as simple as your e-mail account and the contents within it, or it can include a variety of contents such as domain names of medium- to high-market value, digital files of family photos, scanned historical documents, social-media accounts, blogs, online memberships, and cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.
For the majority of you, managing your digital assets as part of estate planning may be more a matter of emotional legacy and easing processes associated with the settlement of your estate for your heirs and executors. For some, a digital legacy may contain assets of economic, academic, or historical value. In this case learning how to store and bequeath a digital legacy becomes a high priority.
Regardless of where you are in the spectrum of digital-asset ownership, it is essential that you take basic steps to ensure your digital life is handled according to your wishes after you die.
What happens to your digital assets is regulated by your wishes in tandem with the rules, policies, terms, and conditions associated with each digital account. Some accounts may clearly indicate that your digital assets are non-transferable, while others may have procedures in place to facilitate the continuity of your digital life. A great example of afterlife digital continuity is the Facebook memorialization feature. This feature allows for families to change the settings of the Facebook profile of a loved one who has passed away, which allows the profile to continue existing so friends and family can still interact with the wall of the deceased. How, then, should you handle your digital assets in preparation for a time when you won’t be around?
Clearly Identify All of Your Accounts
Do you have bills or bank accounts set for online statements only? Are you actively engaged on forums where you are sharing knowledge and have social networks? These digital assets, along with more traditional ones like your e-mail, social-media accounts, and online albums, should be included in your digital legacy, with instructions on how to use the contents within it or how you wish for the contents to be disposed of or archived.
Understand Contractual Terms of Free Providers
The small print associated with user agreements for providers of free services such as online e-mail accounts many not necessarily allow for transferability. Unfortunately, laws for wills and trusts are not evolving quickly enough to provide legal clarity and direction on these matters. To this end, leaving documentation with login and password data in association with your estate becomes essential to ensuring the transfer of your digital assets.
Don’t Forget the Secret Questions
In addition to logins and passwords, document the correct responses to challenge questions associated with your accounts. It is not infrequent for executors or heirs to lock themselves out of the accounts and find that security and validation systems are hindering their access. If you have set up accounts to have two-level authentication that requires engagement with an alternate device such as a cell phone, then it is important that your executor understands this and holds on to the device until he or she has tied up all the loose ends of your digital assets.
Consider Digital Assets of Financial Value
Digital assets have evolved to the point where you, your heirs, and your executor need to consider economic value. Assets such as domain names, blogs generating revenue from keyword-based advertising, and cryptocurrency can sometimes represent a large portion of your estate. If you have parked or active domains with interesting names, then it is important to understand their current value as you begin to make decisions and allocations for your will.
Private Matters Should Remain Private
If you have a reason to believe that some of your digital assets need to be destroyed because of the nature of their contents, then make sure this is clearly communicated to your executor.
Don’t Forget the Perks
Many corporate programs designed to reward loyalty allow for loyalty points or other rewards to be transferred upon death. Make sure these accounts are included in your master list of digital assets. Frequent-flyer miles can often have significant monetary value that your heirs will appreciate.
This article was originally published by Estate Assist. Safe by Estate Assist is a secure place to store and organize account information and documents, such as the logins and passwords to your digital assets. Safe make it easy and secure to share your important information with those you trust now or when you’re no longer around.