How To Add Digital Assets To Your Estate Plan
July 13, 2022
Navigating how to include your digital assets in your estate plan can feel confusing, overwhelming, and complicated. If you desire to pass on some of your digital assets, you need to know how to accurately include them in your estate plan. It is not as overwhelming as it may seem, but having guidance from an estate planning attorney is highly recommended. Provided below is a step-by-step process on how to include your digital assets in your estate plan successfully.
1. Make an inventory: Create a list of all your digital assets, along with their login and password information. Make sure to keep this list in a secure location while providing your fiduciary with specific instructions on how to access these accounts. If you are able to, we recommend that you back up any applicable assets to a flash drive or other physical storage device to ensure protection. Make sure to keep this inventory list updated.
2. Specify your intentions and desires for these digital assets in your estate plan: Make sure to detail in your plan who you want to inherit each digital asset, along with your wishes for how the asset should be used or managed. If you have any assets you don’t want to be passed on, include instructions for how these accounts should be closed and/or deleted. Please note that you should NOT include passwords in your planning documents (especially your will as that will become a public record). As mentioned in the first step, keep your passwords in a secure and safe location where only your fiduciary holds the instructions to access them.
3. Determine the level of access you want your fiduciary to have to your accounts: Specifically, include what kinds of access you want your fiduciary to deal with your digital assets. You need to be specific. Note if you want your fiduciary to view your photos, messages, posts, emails, etc. before deleting them. Do you want them to delete anything/ Everything? Under which conditions? Make sure to include this to ensure your full desires get met. If there are any assets you want to limit access to, we, NCL, can help you include the necessary provisions in your plan to ensure your privacy is respected.
4. Include relevant hardware (phones, computers, tablets): Be sure to include the physical devices upon which your digital assets are stored in your plan. If your fiduciary has quick access to these devices, it will be much easier for them to manage your digital assets. Since the data can be transferred or deleted, you can leave these devices to someone other than the individual who inherits the digital property stored on them.
5. Review service providers’ access-authorization functions: Some service providers like Google, Facebook, and Instagram allow you to give specific individuals access to your accounts upon your death. Review the terms of service for your accounts, and if these functions are available, use them to document who you want to access your accounts. After doing this, make sure the people you named in your estate plan to take over these accounts also match who you named on these accounts as well. If the names do not match, the provider will likely give priority to the person named with its tool, not your plan.
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We hope that having this step-by-step process eases your mind when it comes to including digital assets in your estate plan. We know just how valuable your online property can be, and our planning strategies are specifically designed to ensure these assets are preserved and passed on seamlessly in the event of your death or incapacity.