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6 Steps to Add Digital Assets To Your Estate Plan

Although digital technology has made many aspects of our lives much easier and more convenient, it has also created some unique challenges when it comes to estate planning. If you haven’t planned properly, for example, just locating and accessing all of your digital assets can be a major headache, or even impossible, for your loved ones following your death or incapacity.

And even if your loved ones can access your digital assets, in some cases, doing so may violate privacy laws or the terms of service governing your accounts. You may also have some online assets that you don’t want your loved ones to inherit, so you’ll need to take measures to restrict or limit access to such assets.

Given the unique nature of your online property, there are a number of special considerations you should be aware of when including digital property in your plan. Here are a few of the steps you should take to help ensure your digital assets are properly accounted for, managed, and passed on.

  1. Make an Inventory

Create a list of all your digital assets, along with their login and password information. Some of the most common digital assets include cryptocurrency, online financial accounts, online payment accounts like PayPal, websites, blogs, digital photos, email, and social media.

Store the list in a secure location, and provide your fiduciary (executor, trustee, or power of attorney agent) with detailed instructions about how to locate and access your accounts. To make them easier to manage, back up any cloud-based assets to a computer, flash drive, or other physical storage device. Review this list regularly to account for any new digital property you acquire. You can also use programs such as LastPass, which require you to remember just one login and password, and stores all your logins and passwords in a secure way for you.

  1. Include Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan

Just like any other property you want to pass on, 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 passed on, include instructions for how these accounts should be closed or deleted.

Do NOT include passwords or security keys in your planning documents, where they can be read by others. This is especially true for your will, which becomes public record upon your death. Instead, keep this information in a separate, secure location, and provide your fiduciary with instructions about how to access it. Consider using digital account management and storage services to help streamline this process.

If you have particularly complex or highly encrypted digital assets like cryptocurrency, consider including provisions in your plan allowing your fiduciary to hire an IT consultant to deal with any technical challenges that might come up.

  1. Restrict Access

Include terms in your plan detailing the level of access you want your fiduciary to have to your digital accounts. For example, do you want your fiduciary to be allowed to view your emails, photos, and social media posts before passing them on or deleting them? 

  1. Include Relevant Hardware

Don’t forget to include the physical devices—smartphones, computers, tablets—upon which your digital assets are stored in your plan. Having quick access to these devices will make it much easier for your fiduciary to manage your digital assets. And since the data can be transferred or deleted, you can even leave these devices to someone other than the individual who inherits the digital property stored on them. 

  1. 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.

Double check that the people you named to inherit your digital assets using these access-authorization tools match those you’ve named in your estate plan. If not, the provider will likely give priority to the person named with its tool, not your plan.

  1. Keep Pace with Technology

As technology evolves, you’ll need to adapt your estate plan to keep pace with the ever-changing nature of your assets. Your attorney should use planning strategies that are specifically designed to ensure these assets are preserved and passed on seamlessly in the event of your death or incapacity, and also state up to date on the latest technological trends in order to advise you properly.

 

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At the Law Offices of Tyler Q. Dahl, we’re not just a law firm. We’re your trusted advisor for your business and family from beginning to end. As your family and business grow, we will be there by your side. Our passion is providing you with peace of mind and protection through personalized estate and business planning. Attorney Tyler Q. Dahl is one of less than 100 attorneys in the nation who is also a Certified Tax Coach.

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