Learn how to create a Digital Estate Plan for your Digital Assets in 5 simple steps
You might be in the process of making an Estate Plan that includes how your loved ones will inherit your property, family heirlooms, a worthy painting or jewelry and any other prized possessions after your passing. These form a part of your physical or tangible assets. What about your digital or intangible assets? Your online accounts like Facebook or Instagram might need memorialization or closing, or your Netflix subscription might need to be canceled. How can they take charge when they do not have access to it?
Gone are the days when Estate Planning exclusively involved preparing a Will or Trust to distribute an individual’s assets after their death. In today’s Digital age, it has become a necessity to include Digital Assets in Estate Planning.
We at CLOCR explain how you can create a Digital Estate Plan exclusively for your Digital Assets.
STEP 1: Digital Assets Inventory
As is the case in any planning, the first step is to gather information. Make a list of all your Digital Assets. Digital Asset is a content that is stored digitally. This includes your important online documents(agreements, digitally signed documents, scanned copies of important papers and so on), social media accounts and other online accounts (email, online banking, third-party payment sites, etc.), photos, videos, eBooks, websites/domain names and Intellectual Properties.
Some online accounts make use of an ID and password combination for signing in.. Make sure you note down these login details in your Digital Assets list.
STEP 2: Figure out what you want to do with each of these resources (after your death)
Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram allow family members of a deceased person to memorialize their loved one’s accounts. Do you want your Facebook account or page to be memorialized? How about memorializing your LinkedIn and Instagram accounts? Or, do you want your accounts to be deleted after your death?
These decisions are especially useful if an individual is a social media influencer. Their accounts continue to generate revenue even after their passing. In such cases, closing an account or not withdrawing the gains will result in losses.
The same holds good for emails, online payment sites, bank accounts and online storage accounts to name a few. Google has a configuration known as Google Inactive Account Manager where a user can set trusted contacts and enable some or all of their stored data (on google drives) to be transferred to their next of kin or executor before closing the account permanently.
Explore the available options for each of your online accounts, decide what you want to do with them after your death and include your instructions in your Will.
STEP 3: Nominate a Digital Executor
Like how you have an executor for your Wills and Trust, nominate a ‘Digital’ Executor for managing your Digital Assets. In STEP 2, you decide on what happens to your digital accounts after your death. In STEP 3, you choose a person – a close friend, family member or a trusted lawyer – to fulfill these decisions on digital accounts after your passing.
It is always recommended to have a ‘back-up’ executor. What we mean by this is, nominate two executors for your Estate Plan. This way, if your first executor is incapacitated or dies before you, the next in line i.e.; the second executor takes charge of your Digital Assets after your death.
STEP 4: Make your Digital Estate Plan Legal
So, you have a list of online accounts, nominated friends or family members as legacy contacts and have left instructions on what to do with your digital accounts after your death. These steps are important but unless legalized i.e.; authorized by an attorney in writing, they are of no value and your nominees might have to fight a long battle in courts trying to get your online accounts closed, deleted or memorialized.
Each state in the US has different legal policies. However, the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) provides a uniform protocol for executors to access your online accounts, based on your instructions in the digital estate plan. Check the status of RUFADAA in your state here.
STEP 5: Store your legalized Digital Estate Plan in a secure and accessible place
When it comes to storing important documents digitally, we recommend Clocr’s Digital Vault. Our patent-pending security shreds the document digitally and stores it at multiple locations. This ensures utmost security and your documents are safe from hackers and fraudsters.
In your Digital Assets inventory, you listed usernames and passwords. These are important details and cannot be stored in an unsafe location. Apart from using a digital vault, we recommend you leave a hard copy of your document with your lawyer and keep another copy of the same locked in your cabinet or safe.