Have a say in your digital legacy by writing down instructions today

Forgotten Elements in Estate Plans

After hearing the words “estate plan,” some people may think of a will or a trust. These are important legal documents, but there is so much more to consider when thinking about estate planning.

When considering how complex estate planning can be, it is understandable that some elements may be overlooked. While the following components are often forgotten, their importance should not be minimized.

Incapacity planning

We like to think that we’re invulnerable, but we’re all susceptible to facing a serious injury that could leave us incapacitated. Having a living will gives you the power to specify which types of end-of-life medical care you want to receive. Naming a power of attorney allows you to choose someone to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so on your own.

Choosing the best executor

The executor is the person responsible for settling your estate after your death. This is an important role, and it is something that should be carefully considered when naming someone. Some families simply choose their oldest child to serve as the executor of their estate. The oldest child may be the best person for this role, but that isn’t always the case. Rather than defaulting to someone, look for someone with a good temperament and is willing to carry out the responsibilities of the role.

Digital asset planning

As technology advances, our lives are becoming increasingly digitized. While people often remember to include their non-digital assets in their estate plan, many people are forgetting to plan for their digital assets, too. Digital currencies and files that are stored on your computer, including photos and music, should be included in your estate plan. Having a list of passwords that will allow people to access your accounts after your death is also a good idea.

Regularly reviewing beneficiary designations

When you opened a retirement account or purchased a life insurance policy, you were likely prompted to name a beneficiary. These beneficiary designations specify who is entitled to receive the money in your account or the death benefits on an insurance policy if you die. The beneficiary designation will trump what is written in your will, so it is critical that the designation is up to date.

Estate planning is about so much more than simply deciding where your belongings go after you die. A complete estate plan should protect your finances, your family and your independence. Ensuring these four elements are part of your estate plan can help you accomplish those goals.

What Makes up Your Digital Estate?

What Makes up Your Digital Estate?

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Americans are creating online data at an alarming rate, and it is increasing exponentially. Each minute of the day, online users share roughly 2.5 million pieces of content on Facebook, Tweet 2.8 million times, post 2.2 million photos on Instagram, and swipe over 400,000 times on Tinder. On top of social media, people may use a combination of other online accounts – email, financial, blogs, photo-sharing, and online data storage services.

This adds up to a large amount of “digital property” or “digital assets” for most individuals. It should, therefore, seem commonplace to include a plan for your digital estate in a Last Will & Testament to ensure this sensitive data remains secure and is managed properly after one’s death. Otherwise, this data could be vulnerable to identity thieves and hackers who target the records of approximately 2.5 million deceased individuals a year.

What is Your Digital Estate?

A person’s digital estate is made up of all the information about themselves or created by themselves that exists in digital forms, either on the internet or on some sort of electronic storage device. This article will help you better understand the many different kinds of “digital assets” you might own.

Types of Digital Property

  • Personal digital property
  • Personal digital property with monetary value
  • Digital business property

Personal Digital Property

Your personal digital property includes any information or data that you store electronically – online, on the cloud, or on external hardware. Examples include:

  • Computing hardware – computers, external hard drives, flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, digital cameras, and any other digital devices
  • Online accounts – email accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photograph or video sharing platforms, video gaming accounts, online storage, websites or blogs you manage
  • Intellectual property – copyrighted materials and trademarked items

Personal Digital Property with Monetary Value

This is not completely separate from the list above, but includes digital property that brings in some sort of monetary value or generates revenue. Examples include:

  • Computing hardware – computers, external hard drives, flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, digital cameras, and any other digital devices of monetary value
  • Websites that generate revenue
  • Payment platforms – Paypal, Amazon Payments, Google Wallet, bank accounts, loyalty rewards programs, and accounts with credit balances in your favor

Digital Business Property

This includes digital property that is owned by a business organization, either your business or your employer. Examples include:

  • Online accounts registered to the business
  • Assets to sell on an online store – eBay, Etsy, Amazon, etc
  • Mailing lists, newsletter subscriptions, or email lists with the names of company clients
  • Client information and customer history

Other Digital Property to Manage



It is not just online data that you need to secure in order to keep your digital estate safe. There are numerous external hardware devices that can contain either valuable or sensitive data. Here are some examples and what content needs to be secured:

  • External hard drives – all contents
  • Smart phones and mobile phones – call history, text history, photographs, videos, location data, contact list, online access through applications, and other content
  • Tablets – all contents
  • Computers – all contents
  • Digital music player – personal data and online store accounts
  • Digital camera – photographs or videos
  • E-readers – personal data and online store accounts

Online Accounts

It has become common for people to have a wide variety of online accounts. Each one of these accounts likely required some sensitive data – name, age, gender, email address – in order to open it. Beyond this personal data, many of these accounts generate and host a lot more personal information about you that makes up a large portion of your digital estate and therefore, needs to be managed. Consider these digital assets:

  • Social media accounts
    • Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other, including any content you shared and any correspondences you had on those platforms
  • Online communication tools
    • Skype, FaceTime, IM, iChat, WhatsApp, Line, Facebook Messenger, Gchat, and any data or conversations you have shared on those platforms
  • Email accounts
    • Any conversations or data you have shared
  • Photo and video sharing platforms
    • Instagram, Youtube, Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, and others, including any content you shared, personal data in account settings, and correspondences you had
  • Websites
    • Writing or content you created, history of interactions with readers or users, and any income that was generated as a result
  • Online shopping accounts
    • Personal information stored in account settings – credit card information, address, purchase history, and credit card information or online credit you have with the company
  • Video gaming accounts
    • In-game or in-app purchase history, account information, and any in-game assets you acquired
  • Online storage accounts
    • Dropbox, Goggle Drive, and other cloud storage, including any data and information stored there
  • Loyalty programs
    • Credit cards, airlines, car rental companies, hotels, and other, including any benefits you have collected

Intellectual Property

Your digital estate can also include intellectual property that you have created whether there are physical elements or not. Intellectual property can often have monetary value or the potential for future gains. Intellectual property can include:

  • Registered trademarks
  • Copyrighted digital materials
  • Patents


By being aware of what digital property you own, you can begin to grasp what makes up your entire digital estate, and, as you can see from the lists above, this can include a vast web of online accounts and personal data. Although it might seem like a daunting task, it’s important to keep track of all of this sensitive online data. One day, you will have to include this information as part of your digital estate planning in order for the Executor, or Digital Executor, of your Will to have the ability to manage your digital property. Without a plan to keep this data secure, identity thieves and hackers can pose a serious threat to your digital assets and, in turn, your loved ones.

The Power of a Will

The Power of a Will

Movies and television often portray wills as mysterious documents that guard hidden treasures over which many family feuds ensue. However, in real life, a will is a legal document containing your final wishes.

Depending on how you draft your will, the size of your estate and the number of heirs you leave behind, your legacy may very well be the stuff of daytime TV dramas. It is important to understand the power your will has while you’re alive and after you leave this world. If you have substantial assets and properties, the existence of your will may influence the behavior of future heirs while you are alive (see soap opera reference again). How effective your will is depends on how clearly it is written, whether it is drafted by an experienced attorney and whether it is updated often.

Assuming all of these criteria are met, your last will and testament has the power to accomplish the following tasks after you die:

• Ensuring your pet is taken care of — It’s true, you can leave funds aside, property and even an assigned caretaker to ensure your pet lives a happy life.

• Donating your assets to charity — Do you have a favorite charity that you would like to benefit from your wealth when you’re gone? Your will has the power to ensure such wishes are met.

• Dividing your estate up equally — In the event that you have more than one heir (e.g., a spouse and children), you can instruct to have your assets divided equally among everyone.

Disinheriting your expected heirs — Alternatively, you can leave your heirs nothing.

• Providing instructions should you become incapacitated — You can even include in your will instructions for family members about what they should do if you should become mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to answer for yourself.

The will of Henry VIII of England is one of the most famous examples of how powerful a will can be. In Henry VIII’s will, it named the succession of heirs to the house of Tudor. You might not realize it, but by creating a will and deciding who receives your assets, you are in fact creating a succession of sorts.

Alec Borenstein is a Partner at BMC Estate Planning. Alec went to Loyola Law School in Los Angeles where he graduated cum laude and in the top 10% of his class. Alec is also a Member of the Order of the Coif. In 2006-2007 Alec served as the Chief Articles Editor for Volume 40 of the Loyola Law Review. Alec is admitted in New York and New Jersey and practices in both states and in the Federal Courts. Alec is also an award-winning speaker and business coach. Alec was recently a business development consultant for The Rainmaker Institute, until Alec came back to practice as an estate planning attorney in New Jersey.

Who gets your iTunes when you’re dead? How to pass on music collections, Nectar Points and more

Who gets your iTunes when you’re dead? How to pass on music collections, Nectar Points and more

If this was an iTunes library, it could just vanish

We’re splashing increasing amounts of cash on digital products like music, TV shows and films.

The average iTunes user spends $48 (£31.47) every year, according to one estimate. If we did that every year from 2001, when iTunes started, we’d have forked out £440.63.

But while in the past music lovers could pass on their record collection, our digital rights are far less clear.

Emma Myers, from Saga Legal Services, said: “Many people use the internet to download films, music and TV shows.

“What you may not realise is that you are sometimes not paying to own the content in a real sense, more that you are paying for a licence to use it during your lifetime.”

So how DO you preserve your iTunes collection for the next generation?

Thinking of times past

We asked Saga for the rules:

Share your Apple ID

Currently, you cannot get Apple to delete an account. But if your loved ones have access to your Apple ID and password they can edit the personal information.

The family can click here to manage the Apple ID. Once they’ve signed in, they can change the name of the account and the address.

In effect they create a new account and have access to anything the deceased downloaded. Include the personal information of the intended beneficiary to avoid any problems.

They can also contact customer services on 0844 209 0611 or 0800 107 6285.

Dealing with a digital legacy

If someone dies, they can leave behind a large amount of unfinished business online. Some of it will be entirely personal. In other cases there may be sums of money held in online accounts.

Don’t let a sale go unfinished

Send eBay a copy of the death certificate along with the deceased member’s username, e-mail address, full name, full address, and contact phone number.

eBay also ask for a record of the person making the account closure request. This could be a copy of a driving licence of passport.

Once eBay receives this information, they will close the account and write off any outstanding fees. The account can only be closed when the balance is £0.

Only got Nectar Points? Probably not the favourite child

To inherit Nectar points, the legal heir or executor must call 0344 811 0811 with the deceased’s name and date of birth.

If the balance stands at more than 40,000 points, written confirmation from the executor of the Will must be provided, by post to: Freepost RRXL-TGET-CGZX, Nectar, Clipper Boulevard, Dartford, DA2 6QB.

gambling machine
Don’t gamble with your legacy

Send a copy of the death certificate to kyc@betfair.com along with the deceased’s name. The next of kin will receive any remaining funds in the account.

Send the deceased;’s death certificate and information to support@paddypower.com. Ask that the outstanding balance be returned to the estate.

E-mail customerhelp@williamhill.co.uk with a copy of the death certificate and proof that the person claiming the funds is related to the deceased. For example show the same surname, or a birth or marriage certificate.

Customer services will close the account and transfer the remaining balance.

Oyster card
The ticket to untold riches?

Send the Oyster card number and a copy of the death certificate to enquiry.tube@tfl.gov.uk.

To close the account, the estate executor should fax the following to 0870 730 3194:

  • A cover sheet that states the account holder is deceased and the executor wants to close the
  • PayPal account
  • A copy of the death certificate for the account holder
  • A copy of the deceased account holder’s Will or legal documentation that provides the information regarding the executor
  • A letter stating the intentions, for example: changing the name of the account holder, closing the account
  • A copy of a photo ID of the executor

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