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How to Create a Digital Estate Plan

How to Create a Digital Estate Plan
From cherished memories stored in digital photo albums to valuable assets held in online accounts, our digital footprint has become a significant component of our overall legacy.

Digital estate planning has become just as important as traditional estate planning, since so much of our lives now are online. A recent article, “Digital Estate Planning Guide: Get Your Digital Assets in Order,” from Kiplinger, explains how to create a digital estate plan in order to protect digital assets and let loved ones know your wishes.

Unlike boxes of photos left in attics, digital photos, social media accounts and cryptocurrency can’t be easily accessed and don’t physically disintegrate. With no plan in place, your estate is vulnerable to identity theft and lost assets, not to mention disputes between family members over digital assets.

Digital assets include email accounts, social media profiles, photographs and recordings, online banking and investment accounts, intellectual property, cryptocurrency, subscriptions, frequent flier miles and documents stored online.

The first step is the most tedious one. However, it is necessary. You’ll need to list all assets, their URL (address), login credentials and account numbers. If the account has two-factor protection, for example, when you must put in a code received on another device, include this information. If this sounds like too much work, consider your executor trying to locate every asset. It will take much more time, and some assets may be lost forever.

Speaking of your executor, you’ll need to identify a trusted person who is both reliable and tech-savvy to serve as your digital asset estate executor. It doesn’t have to be the same person you name as your executor. Speak with your estate planning attorney about how to name both individuals in your will.

Here are some issues to consider when creating a digital estate plan:

  • What do you want to happen to each of your accounts—do you want them deleted, or do you want your executor to download and store the information on a local hard drive or other hardware?
  • How do you want your assets to be used? If cryptocurrency, do you want them to transfer the assets, or do you want to convert them to traditional money and then distribute them to heirs?
  • If you have sensitive information and wish to keep the asset private, can your digital executor do that, or do you need to delete or transfer the information long before you die?

Let loved ones know of the existence of your digital estate plan and who your digital executor is. Review the digital estate plan often, since digital assets change much faster than traditional assets. Every jurisdiction has its own laws regarding digital assets, so speak with an experienced estate planning attorney as to how to create a digital estate plan that complies with state laws and regulations. Start here by scheduling a free phone consultation with one of our attorneys.

Reference: Kiplinger (March 14, 2024) “Digital Estate Planning Guide: Get Your Digital Assets in Order”

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