If you spend a lot of time on the Internet, you’re not just shopping or being entertained, or following the news or participating in an online community. You’re probably also dealing with accounts and information that eventually can become part of your digital ‘estate.’
If your digital estate is not properly cared for, it can lead to problems for your heirs, including an opportunity for hackers to try to get at whatever assets they can, reports the White Mountain Independent in the article titled “Is your ‘digital estate’ in order?”
Think about how many of your personal accounts are online:
- Financial accounts: banking, brokerage, bill-paying utilities;
- Virtual property: credit card points, frequent flyer miles, cryptocurrency;
- Business accounts: eBay, Amazon, Etsy; stock photo accounts;
- Email accounts: Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo;
- Social network: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram; and
- Online digital storage: Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud.
Those are many assets to protect. Where do you start?
First, create an inventory. Use the categories above or create your own. However, you should make it organized.
Document your wishes for how you want your digital assets to be managed. If you don’t specify this, you may be leaving a wide-open arena for long legal battles. Your heirs and beneficiaries may never gain access to them. Hackers might go after them and use your identity. Your heirs may also have to engage in an expensive and protracted battle with a social media giant with costs eating into their inheritance.
Name a digital executor in your will. This is a relatively new area, but you can name a person to be your digital executor. Not all states recognize this position, so you’ll want to speak with a local estate planning attorney to find out what the laws are in your state.
You will also need to go through all of your online accounts and learn what each platform requires, in the instance of the account owner’s death.
Review your plans, especially as you add new digital assets.
Managing digital assets can be as difficult as managing tangible assets. The laws are still evolving, so speak with your estate planning attorney to make sure that your estate is prepared, and your heirs will not face a digital nightmare after you have passed away.
Reference: White Mountain Independent (Oct. 26, 2018) “Is your ‘digital estate’ in order?”