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In the past, estate planning involved allocating financial and physical assets and ensuring your wishes for burial and memorial were laid out for your loved ones. Today, there’s an additional aspect to consider – digital assets. Banking, social media accounts, shopping accounts, and personal domains all need to be appropriately handled. To help your loved ones ensure your digital assets are protected, you need to create a digital estate plan.
Make a List of All Your Accounts
This may be more extensive than you first think. Include hardware such as tablets, mobile phones, and laptops as well as cloud storage accounts, e-reading software, social media, banking, email, etc. Be sure to include user names and passwords as well as the location (URL or device) for each account.
Decide How You Want Each Asset Handled
You may want some accounts deleted or deactivated while others may want to be saved or transferred to others. Although your wishes may conflict with some companies’ terms of service, it’s still important to communicate your desires. If any of your digital assets have a monetary value – say an online stock trading account – be clear about what you want to be done with those assets and who should manage the accounts.
Name a Digital Executor
Unlike the executor of your will, a digital executor is not a legally binding term – at least not yet. The concept is the same, though. Your digital executor will work to ensure your wishes are met. You can opt for this to be the same person as the executor of your will or choose someone else. They need to be someone you trust to handle your passwords and other sensitive data.
Be sure all this information is stored securely and also easy for your loved ones to find. The best places to do this are with your attorney, online, or in a locked safe or bank deposit box. Once you’ve stored it, be sure you let some key people in your life know where it is.
Make It Legal
In some states (though not yet NH or MA), it’s possible to add your digital estate plan to your will as a codicil. Laws are always changing, so check with your attorney to see if you can make your digital estate plan a legally binding document. Pro tip: don’t include passwords and other login information in your will. This avoids continual updates. Instead, include information about where login information is stored.
In today’s highly digital society, including digital assets in your estate, planning is more important than ever. Take the time to ensure your data is safe, and your loved ones know how you want your online data handled.