Today just about everything in life- be it shopping, banking, investing, or even socializing, happens online. So, what happens to your digital assets after you die or when you’re no longer around to manage them? That’s where digital estate planning comes in. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through the process of creating your personal digital estate plan.
What is a digital estate?
A digital asset may be anything that remains generally on the web. A digital asset may be something that can be bought, traded, or sold online. This can include anything from web domains, blogs, articles, online art, logos, or any online businesses.
A digital asset may also include your personal email accounts, google drives, online banking accounts, cryptocurrency, social media accounts (like Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and etc.), your cloud based storage account (like Dropbox, icloud, and etc), photo accounts, spreadsheets, online art, logo, and other managed websites.
Here is a cheat sheet for creating your digital estate plan in 10 simple steps.
Step 1: Take Inventory of Your Digital Assets
To start preparing your plan, you need to begin by creating a complete list of your digital assets. But what are digital assets? These include all digital hardware and virtual accounts and assets that you own such as your social media accounts, email accounts, domain names, websites, blogs, e-commerce accounts, online subscriptions, cell phone apps, loyalty program benefits, utility accounts, online banking accounts, gaming accounts, NFTs and cryptocurrency keys. Don’t forget to include your graphics, videos, important documents, and other intellectual property stored in the cloud or on various devices.
Step 2: Appoint a Digital Executor
Much like your traditional Will designates an executor to manage your physical assets; your plan should have a digital executor. This individual will be responsible for carrying out your wishes and managing your digital affairs in the event of your passing or incapacitation.
Step 3: Organize Your Digital Assets
It’s crucial to declutter and organize your digital assets so that your executor can easily access and manage your assets. Start by categorizing your assets into folders or a digital asset management system. Create a clear inventory that includes login credentials, account details, and instructions for accessing and managing each asset. This step makes it easier for your digital executor to carry out your wishes.
Step 4: Specify how you want your digital assets to be managed
You wouldn’t leave your loved ones guessing about your last wishes in your will, and the same principle applies to this plan. Clearly define your intentions regarding each of your digital assets.
Do you want your social media accounts memorialized, deleted, or left untouched? Should your blog or website be maintained or taken down? Specify what should happen to your email accounts and any valuable digital possessions like domain names or cryptocurrency keys.
Step 5: Secure Access to Your Accounts
Access to your digital assets is the key to managing your digital estate effectively. To ensure your digital executor can access your accounts, compile a list of usernames and passwords.
You can use a password manager to securely store this information and share it with your digital executor when the time comes. Remember to keep this information up-to-date and inform your executor of any changes.
Step 6: Speak with a qualified estate-planning attorney
RUFADAA does not allow executors to access everything. For example, unless your plan contains the specific language about a domain you own, your executor will not be able to access your domain. Do not rely on online estate plan creators. Consult with an attorney experienced in estate planning to make sure your plan is drafted to minimize difficulties for your executor and loved ones in enforcing it. If you have an existing estate plan that does not address your digital assets, your attorney will help you coordinate your digital assets with the existing plan.
In some cases, you may need to include specific clauses in your will or create a separate document outlining your digital wishes. Legal advice ensures that your plan has the necessary legal backing to be executed smoothly.
Step 7: Regularly Review and Update Your Plan
Just like life, your digital presence is constantly evolving. You may create new accounts, purchase new subscriptions, and you may decide to close the existing account and subscriptions. Remember to regularly review and update your plan to reflect these changes.
Additionally, you need to keep up-to-date on your online platforms’ policies and ensure that your digital executor is aware of these changes. Social media companies and other online service providers frequently update their terms of service. Knowing changes in their policies can help you adapt your plan accordingly.
Step 8: Educate Your Loved Ones
Your loved ones should be aware of your plan. Make sure your family members know whom you’ve designated as your digital executor and where to find the necessary information in case of your passing.
Step 9: Store Your Plan Securely
Your plan, including passwords and instructions, is sensitive information. To keep your plan secure, simply have it under the custody of your estate planning attorney. You can also choose to store it, either in a physical location like a safe deposit box or using a trusted online storage platform. Ensure that your digital executor knows how to access this information when the time comes.
Step 10: Communicate with Online Service Providers
Some online service providers offer features to manage your digital assets. Investigate whether the platforms you use have options for deciding what should happen to your account in the event of your passing. For example, Facebook allows you to appoint a legacy contact who can manage your memorialized account. Google’s Inactive Account Manager allows you to set up a plan for your Google services.
Now time to test your digital estate plan
Before finalizing your plan, you can test-run your plan to ensure its effectiveness. Work with your digital executor to simulate the process of accessing and managing your digital assets based on the instructions in your plan. This test run can help uncover any potential issues or gaps in your plan, allowing you to make necessary adjustments.
Create your digital estate plan today
Preparing a digital estate plan not only ensures your online legacy is preserved but also eases the burden on your loved ones during a difficult time. If you’re looking to create a digital estate plan or wish to discuss updates to your current plan, our elder law attorneys are here to guide you through the process. To schedule a consultation with our law firm, simply drop us an email at email@example.com or call 718-490-7177.