Digital Estate Planning is the process of organizing your Digital Assets and making arrangements for what should happen to them after your death.
We live in an era where our Digital Assets are as important (or more) as physical or tangible assets. Like how you create an Estate Plan for their tangible assets, you can also create a Digital Estate Plan for your Digital Assets.
Do you want your family members to download your important documents and photos from your cloud storage? Should they download photos from your social media profiles and close these accounts? Or, should they memorialize your social media profiles? What about subscription accounts? These are the decisions that go into your Digital Estate Planning document.
If you do not know how to create a Digital Estate Plan, do not worry. We got you covered. In this post, we first give you a brief description of how to create a Digital Estate Plan and then discuss the advantages of creating one.
Steps to create a Digital Estate Plan
Make an inventory of your Digital Assets
Be it social media profiles, cloud storage, gaming profiles or cryptocurrency, make sure to add all of them to your inventory.
Oh yes, if you own cryptocurrency and want to include them in your Digital Estate Plan, do not forget to mention the device used to purchase the cryptocurrency. Private keys are specific to users and not mentioning how to gain access to it might leave your beneficiaries in a lurch while handling your Cryptocurrency.
Decide what to do with your Digital Assets
After listing all your Digital Assets, the next step would be to let your beneficiaries know what to do with these assets after you pass away. Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram have an option to memorialize a deceased user’s account while Google lets you choose Trusted Contacts to whom you can transfer your stored data (google drives, Gmail and YouTube) before permanently deleting the account.
Have a look at each organization’s legacy policies and activate the available features. By doing so, you are letting your beneficiaries know how to manage your online accounts after you’re gone.
Appoint a Digital Executor
Not all online accounts have memorialization features. Also, for some of your online accounts, you might want a particular relative or friend to handle it for you after you’re gone. Appoint a Digital Executor to manage your online accounts.
Make use of Digital Estate Laws such as RUFADAA to your advantage. The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, also known in short as RUFADAA, allows the fiduciaries (executors of the decedent’s estate, trustees, conservators, and agents under a power of attorney) to access a person’s online accounts when the account owner dies or is incapacitated.
Make your Digital Estate Plan legal
Your Digital Estate Plan is not valid unless signed by an attorney in writing. Once you create a Digital Estate Plan, contact your attorney and get your plan legalized.
One important point to remember: The only thing that overrides your Estate Plan is a digital tool. For example, if you name your friend as your Facebook Legacy Contact but your Last Will and Testament name one of your family members as your Digital Executor, your friend gains control of your Facebook account.
Advantages of Digital Estate Planning
You now know how to create a Digital Estate Plan but may still have doubts as to how beneficial it is to you.
Advantages of Digital Estate Planning include:
The choice is yours
Do you want your close friends to manage your social media profiles while your family can handle the rest of your online accounts after you’re gone? You can include specific instructions of each of your online accounts in your Digital Estate Plan.
Report and submit Digital Properties of financial value to the probate
From online banking to third-party payment accounts, some of your Digital Assets have financial value. Just including their details in your Digital Estate Plan is not enough. Assets of financial value need to go to probate to be deemed as legally valid transfers after the owner’s death.
By listing all your Digital Assets in your Digital Estate Plan, you will have an idea as to which of these hold monetary values. You can then talk to your attorney and submit Digital Properties of financial value to the probate.
Legacy Contacts for social media profiles
Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram allow you to appoint a legacy contact to manage your profile after your passing. You can instruct your legacy contact to either close or memorialize your social media profiles.
By choosing a Legacy Contact, you are securing your Digital Accounts by letting beneficiaries handle it after your demise.
Avoid Identity Theft
Hackers and frauds target online accounts and if one doesn’t take measures to secure their online accounts, their precious data will be out for grabs.
Let’s consider an example: Tom does not appoint a Legacy Contact for his Facebook and Instagram account. He passes away in a freak accident while on his way to work. His Facebook and Instagram are hacked months after his demise. His personal photographs and chats are now on the dark web. There’s nothing Tom’s family could do to secure his photos and chats as he did not make arrangements to handle his account.
Had Tom created a Digital Estate Plan for his Digital Assets or appointed a Legacy Contact for his Facebook and Instagram accounts, his family wouldn’t have had to deal with seeing their deceased loved one’s personal data being abused.
Listing and arranging your Digital Assets and creating a Digital Estate Plan might sound like a tedious task but in the long run, it is beneficial.