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Estate Plans Should Include Instructions for Your Digital Assets (Part 2)

Estate Plans Should Include Instructions for Your Digital Assets (Part 2)

 

By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
July 17, 2014

Click here to read part 1 of this digital assets blog series.

To determine what digital assets you should include in your estate plan, start by understanding what assets are. Digital assets include all online accounts (profiles) and digital files that you own, have managerial control over and access to. Below, they are separated into two types of assets:

Monetary Digital Assets: 

Some digital assets have tangible monetary value, such as Amazon, ebay, PayPal, Dwolla, etc. You may want to leave specific instructions to your Digital Personal Representative for these accounts, including your account login credentials, and how you want the account to be closed or maintained. Of course to protect these accounts, be mindful of storing this data in a consolidated manner. On that same note, there are many afterlife management companies that store all of this information for you. However, this presents the same concern that all of the information could be exposed, in the event that the security system is breached. I do not advise using these companies and can recommend better ways.

Sentimental Digital Assets:

With sentimental accounts, your main concern may likely be ensuring they are preserved and protected. You want to the peace of mind of knowing that your Digital Personal Representative is aware of their existence, has access to them and understands their importance to you and your family. Since each account has different user agreements, which will effect how you instruct their disposition, it’s important to read the user agreements for each account to ensure that your instructional provisions are consistent with what you have legally agreed to. Also, don’t forget to include those files that you have on your computer, phone, a zip drive, or on a “cloud.” Clouds have been around for decades and merely represent offsite or remote storage facilities. Marketers have dubbed the term “cloud” and it has taken off. Examples of cloud-based storage include Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, and Box. Be certain to include these digital assets in your estate plan, as failure to do so can lead to problems arising from terms of service agreements, privacy, and rights of beneficiaries. More importantly, in my opinion, is to ensure the login credentials and access information is given to your trusted Digital Personal Representatives. Otherwise, quite simply, you may lose that data forever.

Once you identify your digital assets and who you want to manage and inherit these assets, it will help your attorney draft the appropriate provisions that will preserve and protect your digital afterlife.

Below are some benefits of planning ahead with respect to your Digital Assets:

  • Prevention of identity theft – if no one has knowledge pr access to your accounts, there is a higher probability that identity theft will go unnoticed.
  • Easy discovery of electronic bills and similar accounts, to avoid late fees & cancellations that will create losses for the estate.
  • Preserving your story – allowing family members to access your blog, photos, and other digital assets that keep your memory and story alive.
  • Lastly, don’t forget that a Last Will and Testament is not private. Therefore, you may want to reconsider including your plans in the will. My advice is to appoint your Digital Personal Representative in your will, but include your login credentials and instructions on a separate document that is referenced in the will.
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