It’s easy to consider your physical assets, like your home, investment accounts, and keepsakes, when you think about estate planning. But as life increasingly moves online, it’s essential to consider your digital footprint when you address your estate plan. If you’re new to the realm of digital assets, here’s what you need to know about incorporating them into your estate plan.
What are digital assets?
Digital assets encompass the digital records and online accounts you own, use, or license online. Digital assets may include things like:
• Email accounts
• Social media accounts
• Websites and domain names
• Online sports betting accounts
• Blogs and other virtual content, including revenue streams associated with the content
• Digital rights to literature, music, etc.
Why do you need digital assets in your estate plan?
Including digital assets in your estate plan ensures loved ones can properly deal with your online presence after you pass. Your digital estate plan will outline clear instructions for what loved ones should do with your various accounts.
For example, you may want to shut down a website after you pass away or have loved ones post a specific message to your Facebook account. All of this can be explicitly stated in your digital estate plan.
While access to certain financial records may be digital, like account access to investment accounts, whole life insurance policies, and bank accounts, they aren’t actually considered digital assets. That’s because the underlying value of these accounts, (the cash, death benefit payout, etc.) are held by institutions. And that means they’re handled as part of your non-digital estate.
How to incorporate digital assets
You’ll incorporate digital assets in your estate plan much as you’d do for physical assets.
1. Create a list of your digital assets and accounts. Be sure to include appropriate URLs to access accounts, usernames, and passwords. You can collect this information on a physical document or track it in digital form. If you choose to organize information online, you’ll need to ensure you give appropriate access to someone you trust and keep it updated.
2. Decide how you want digital assets to be handled. Think about outcomes like: If you want social media accounts to be deactivated or left active Whether you want to give someone rights to digital revenue streams How you want websites to be managed
3. Create a legally binding digital estate plan.
It’s wise to keep your digital estate plan separate from your will. That’s because your will may become public information after you pass, and your digital estate plan will contain sensitive information like passwords for online accounts.
Similar to a will, you may want to establish a digital executor. Whether a family member, friend, or attorney, this person can help handle your digital estate when you’re gone and ensure your wishes are carried out.
4. Ensure you cover other important components of an estate plan.
Once you create your digital estate plan, it’s smart to look at the rest of your plan to be sure you have your bases covered. That means being sure your estate documents contain:
• Healthcare information, like medical power of attorney
• Power of attorney documents
• Life insurance information, including beneficiaries
• Your will and living will
The bottom line
The digital world is quickly becoming a larger part of everyday existence. And this means that in additional to a physical void, there may also be an online void after you pass away. Outlining clear instructions for handling digital assets ensures your legacy in the virtual world will be preserved according to your wishes.
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