When it comes to estate planning many people do not think about including their digital assets, but in today’s world where technology is at every turn, it is important to consider these items and make sure they are properly covered in your estate plan.
What are digital assets?
Digital assets can include: electronically stored pictures and videos, e-mail accounts, social media accounts, online subscription services, online bank accounts, cloud data, websites, cryptocurrency keys, NFTs and any other existing digital collections.
Why is important to include these in your estate plan?
If you do not include these items in your estate plan, it works similar to real property. Your heirs may not be granted access to the necessary accounts to manage them or to close them. Items like your family pictures or videos that you have stored could be deleted.
If you do not have specific instructions on who can access these assets and how they can access them your loved ones, your valuable data could be gone forever.
How to prepare
- E-mail accounts: your executor may need access to these to access bills and other online accounts. Due to privacy measures set by many providers, it is required that you leave specific permission for an executor to access your e-mail. Be sure to include all e-mail addresses and how to access them.
- Other online accounts: Create a list of every username and password. There are several online tools that will allow you to store all your usernames and passwords in one location such as LastPass. With this option, you will just need to make sure to keep the passwords up-to-date and then in your estate plan, just include the login information for your LastPass. It is important to note that LastPass will not reset the master password so be sure to have it correct in the estate plan or your executor will not be able to access it.
- Intentions: include in your plans what you would like to happen with each account. I.E. do you want your social media accounts deleted or archived? Do you want your website to be unpublished?
- For assets that have monetary value: these may have special considerations.
- NFTs also known as Non-Fungible Tokens: If you have purchased anything required an NFT to access it. For example, if you purchased the rights to use the asset for your life, those rights will be terminated upon your death. If you have full ownership, then you will need to include how you can pass it on to your beneficiaries. It will be important that you list where the personal key is for NFT as that will be the only way to access it.
- Loyalty Programs: these can include anything from individual stores, restaurants, airline miles etc. Each program may have a different set of rules so be sure to check what their policy is for transferring said points and then be sure to name a specific beneficiary.
- Cryptocurrency: it is important to keep record of your private key used to access your cryptocurrency. Without the private key, no one will be able to access your accounts.
Your Digital Legacy on Social Media
Several social media platforms allow you to set up specific account managers or legacy contacts that can access and manage your account once you’ve passed.
- Facebook: you can set up your legacy contact by signing into your account, going to settings, and clicking on ‘Memorialization Settings’. In this area you can type in the name of your friend or friends you want to be your legacy contact. To let your friend know they are your legacy contact, click “send”. If you’d rather have your account deleted, you can select that option as well under ‘memorialization settings’. Once someone notifies Facebook that you have passed away, Facebook will delete your account.
- Google: to set an inactive account manager the process is a little bit more in-depth.
- Sign into your Google Account at google.com
- Click on the big circle in the upper right of the screen –an example is shown to the right –then select the account you wish to personalize
- Click “Manage your data & personalization” under the “Privacy & Personalization” header
- Scroll down to “Download, delete, or make a plan for your data” and select “Make a plan for your account”
- Scroll down to “Decide when Google should consider your Google Account inactive”
- Select when Google should consider your account inactive: 3, 6, 12 or 18 months
- Confirm your mobile number, email and recovery email
- “Choose who to notify and what to share
- You can choose up to 10 people for Google to notify if your Google Account becomes inactive
- You can then select what Google should share with each person.
- Scroll down and select whether you want your inactive Google account deleted after three months
Next Steps to Consider
Since considering digital assets in estate planning is still relatively new, the laws surrounding them are rapidly changing. Talk with your attorney about the steps you can start taking now. Be sure to keep any documentation involving your digital assets up-to-date.
If you need any assistance with estate planning or have questions on how to include your digital assets in your plan, please contact the attorneys here at The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC.
The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC presents the information in this article for general education purposes only. Although this article discusses legal issues, it is not legal advice. The law and the content may have changed since this article was written, and The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC makes no warranty or guarantee about the continuing accuracy of the information presented. Use of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship, and The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC does not represent you unless and until we are expressly retained in writing.