Digital Estate Planning
Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, can help you secure your digital assets. Contact us for trustworthy digital estate planning services for peace of mind.
What Is a Digital Estate?
Today, we all have a digital life and own some digital assets. What happens to these when one dies? Well, it depends on whether or not you planned their transfer and protection, and this is where digital estate planning can come in handy.
Digital estate planning allows you to organize your digital property and decide how they are used or handled by your heirs. Your virtual and digital accounts and all associated assets make up your digital estate. These can be your social media accounts, online bank accounts, emails, and phone photos. Electronic documents and files kept online on portable devices or computers are digital assets.
Almost anything you store digitally is a digital asset and should be listed in your digital estate plan to allow your loved ones to access them once you are no longer around.
Types of Digital Assets
The first step in developing a comprehensive digital estate plan is knowing what is and isn’t a digital asset. Digital assets include online banking and electronic bank statements but not the money in your bank account.
Any of the following can be considered a digital asset:
A social media account
Online banking accounts
A subscription-based online account
Accounts for online stores or marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, etc.
Pictures kept in the cloud or online
Online accounts in chat rooms
Accounts for online dating or gaming
Utility accounts on the internet
Benefits of loyalty programs (such as frequent flyer miles, credit card benefits, etc.)
Any additional private data you keep on your laptop, phone, or tablet
Five Steps to Plan Your Digital Estate
If you are considering digital estate planning, here are the five basic steps you can take to prepare your plan:
Step 1 – Make a Digital Asset Inventory
To begin a digital estate plan, you may first list your digital possessions. Include usernames, passwords, and account names. You can either make a printed version or store the information in a password manager.
Step 2 – Record How You Want Each Digital Asset to Be Handled
It’s crucial to specify your intentions for each asset or account to ensure your executor manages them accordingly after your death.
Review the terms and conditions of any particular companies you are dealing with. Make sure your instructions comply with them. Transfers or authorizations to access digital accounts are permitted by some businesses but not others.
Facebook permits your account to be memorialized by family members. Twitter and Google have legacy policies. With Google’s custodial tools, you can grant someone permission to access your online accounts.
If you have blogs or accounts with monetary value, decide who will run them going forward and think about having someone post a farewell to your fans.
Step 3 – Select Your Digital Executor
Your traditional executor could also be your digital executor. The majority of people pick a relative or friend. If you pick several people, make sure they can cooperate. Clarify the duties and obligations of your digital executor, and make sure they are aware of the expectations.
Step 4 – Include Your Digital Estate Plan in Your Existing Estate Planning Documents
If you already have estate planning documents, such as a will or a trust, you can elect to include your digital estate plan as part of them. You can add digital estate provisions in your will, detailing your digital assets, how you want them to be handled, and by whom. Make sure to include the inventory list and details of the password manager.
If you don’t have an estate plan, an estate planning lawyer can help you create one.
Step 5 – Store Your Digital Estate Planning Documents Safely
Your digital executor must have access to all of your estate’s paperwork. Therefore, make sure to store your digital estate plan somewhere secure and easily accessible. You could, for example, keep them on file with your lawyer.
Digital Estate Planning Tools
An online password manager is a valuable tool for accessing digital assets. These systems can save usernames, passwords, and security questions and answers. You can also use them to store personal identification numbers (PINs) and save links to online services.
Typically, they are accessed through one master password. Access and security are made possible by services like Keeper, SecureSafe, BitWarden, and 1Password.
Digital Estate Planning for Businesses
Digital estate planning is crucial for businesses. It is used to protect their digital assets, including data, software, apps, and intellectual property.
The primary goal is to ensure the company and its digital assets are preserved after the owner’s death. This is especially the case if employees have access to the company accounts and online data.
Cybercriminals are inventive. Business owners must be careful and attentive in safeguarding digital assets. The same principles apply to digital estate planning for individuals. Your digital estate plan should form part of a broader estate tax protection strategy.
Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC Can Help You
Our knowledgeable attorney at Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, can help you protect your digital assets through a digital estate plan.
Whether it’s for your personal assets or for business, we are here for you. We create personalized estate plans for our clients, tailored specifically to their unique needs and goals.
We offer a broad range of services. You can see our DC trusts lawyer if you are considering creating a trust.
Contact us today for a free consultation!
How Do I Grant Access to My Digital Assets?
To grant access to your digital assets, you can create a document listing your online accounts and login information and securely share this document with a trusted person, such as an executor or digital executor. Additionally, consider using online tools provided by certain platforms to designate a contact who can manage your digital assets in the event of your incapacity or passing.
How Often Should I Update My Digital Estate Plan?
Regularly revisit your digital estate plan at least once a year and also after major life changes like marriage, divorce, or acquiring new digital assets to ensure it remains accurate and up to date.