What Are "Digital Assets", and Do I Really Need A "Digital Estate Plan"?

Posted: January 27, 2020

In a world of endless logins, user names, and passwords, what are digital assets, and do we really need to worry about what happens to them when we are gone?

If you are like me, you find yourself utilizing digital resources daily, both through work and your everyday life and activities.  From digital hardware like smartphones, computers, tablets, and TVs to digital access of accounts through social media, entertainment websites, banks, brokerage firms, and insurance companies, we are constantly exposed to digital resources.  The logins, user names, and passwords can sometimes seem endless and overwhelming, especially if you’ve recently updated something seemingly simple, like an Amazon Fire Stick, or something frustratingly complex like your cell phone. 

In a time when technology is always advancing, and the levels of security needed and methods of protecting our personal data are constantly changing, what can we do to manage the data both now and when we pass away?  Thankfully there are numerous articles, tools, and practical record-keeping ideas available both online and in print to help you manage your digital resources now and in the future, and I have included links to a few that I found helpful below.  

Some key points and important steps that most of the articles I read regarding digital estate planning agreed upon include the following:

  • Keep an updated list of all of the digital assets that you own. Include detailed information about how to access each digital asset, as well as information on any designated, trusted contacts.
  • Determine what you would like to have happen to each of your digital assets or accounts in the future and document your wishes.
  • Choose an individual that you trust and talk with them about serving as your “Digital Executor.” Consider talking with your estate planning attorney about options for incorporating the legal management of your digital estate in your formal estate planning documents.
  • Store sensitive information about your digital property and account information in an accessible but secure location.
  • Many social media platforms and other types of online accounts have built-in settings for you to predetermine what you would like to happen to your information or account upon prolonged inactivity and/or death, and whom you might authorize to act on your behalf. Consider keeping this information updated.

There will certainly be additional considerations and steps to take depending on your specific circumstances, but hopefully these ideas will get you thinking about the importance of managing your digital estate.  Although it may seem overwhelming, ultimately organizing your digital property and account information will benefit you now, and your caregiver, power of attorney, or estate executor in the future.

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