There’s an entire category of commonly-overlooked legacy to consider – digital assets. Don’t worry if you didn’t consider these assets when made your will or trust – it’s surprisingly common and, luckily, easy to correct.
What are digital assets? They include:
- Your photos (yes, all those selfies are a digital asset)
- Files stored in the cloud or on your local computer
- Virtual currency accounts
- Social media profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Device backups
- Digital business documents
These assets can have monetary value, such as virtual currency accounts, a URL, or digital business assets. It is important you don’t adopt a wait-and-see approach for these assets. Whether you proactively plan or not, your legacy now includes more than the inheritance (e.g. family heirlooms) you want to pass along, it also includes your digital assets.
So, here are 3 tips to get you started:
1. Inventory your digital assets. Make a list of every online account you use. If you run a business, don’t forget spreadsheets, digital records, client files, databases, and other digital business documents, although those should also be part of your business succession plan. If it exists in cyberspace, connects to it or pertains to it, put it on the list for your attorney and executor.
2. Designate a cyber successor. A cyber successor is someone you trust who can access your accounts and perform business on your behalf after you are gone or in the event you are incapacitated. Make sure they can access your accounts in a timely manner. Safeguard your list, so that it doesn’t end up being vulnerable to unauthorized access, identity theft, or data loss.
3. Determine the necessary documents for your estate, and make a record of your wishes. You may want to put some of your digital assets into a trust or even include specific access in a power of attorney. Consult with an estate planning attorney to determine the best way to determine your successors, trustees, and beneficiaries, and then make sure the right documents or designations are in place so access can be made when it’s needed. The laws in this arena are evolving, so any planning you’ve done in the past probably needs an update.
The worst thing you can do is nothing. This could result in the loss of digital family photo albums, disruption of your business if you’re incapacitated, or worse. If this process feels daunting or you’re still not sure where or how to start, contact your estate planning team. Your estate planning team can help you identify, track, and protect your digital assets to give you peace of mind.