Perhaps you created your will, set up a trust account for the benefit of your loved ones, and signed health care documents, but have you created a digital estate plan? Nowadays, most people regularly do business online. Many individuals use digital banking logins, create purchasing accounts with their favorite online retailers, and have social media accounts. All of these “assets” are a part of your digital estate. Because of the myriad ways the ability to access your online presence can affect your loved ones after you die, a digital estate plan should be included in everyone’s comprehensive estate plan.
A digital estate plan provides your executor or loved ones with the information required to access your online presence. This may not sound important, but consider what you would like to have happen to each of your digital assets after your death. A digital estate plan can provide loved ones with direction regarding how to disseminate or destroy your documents, digital photos, and other online information.
In order to create your digital estate plan, you should first create a list of each of your digital assets such as email accounts, brokerage or retirement accounts, online payment accounts like PayPal, and any websites you may own. In order to protect your account information from thieves, it is advisable to create a separate list for passwords that allow access to your accounts. Ideally, each list should be stored in a different location. The lists should also be updated at least once per year and anytime you create a new account or change your password.
Next, you should select a digital executor. A digital executor should be someone trustworthy who will carry out your wishes with regard to your digital information and accounts after you die. When selecting a digital executor, it is important to not only choose someone you trust with your sensitive information, but also someone who is comfortable with technology. After you have selected a digital executor, you should name the individual in your will or other estate planning documents and also provide that person with a power of attorney over your online accounts.
It is important that you store your digital logins and passwords in a safe location. A safety deposit box or online data management account are both popular methods for storing a digital estate plan. An added benefit of online storage is the fact that your information will be securely encrypted and released to your named beneficiaries upon your death. A trusted friend, relative, or your digital executor may also be tasked with storing your online account information.
Although information regarding disposition of your financial accounts will normally be addressed in your overall estate plan, the process will go more smoothly if your executor is provided with online access to your financial accounts. You should also ensure that you outline exactly how you would like your non-financial accounts to be handled after your death. For example, would you like your social media account left online or deactivated? Should loved ones be provided with access to your online photo accounts? Would you like a final online message or video posted for your loved ones to view? In addition to usernames and passwords, specific directions should always be provided to your digital executor. For more information regarding how to create a comprehensive estate plan to protect your loved ones following your death, you should contact a capable estate planning lawyer.
To request a consultation with a dedicated estate planning attorney, we invite you to submit our online form. The experienced attorneys at Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC, are available to assist clients with trusts, probate matters, health care documents, insurance, powers of attorney, wills, and a variety of other estate planning tools.