You may think you’re ahead of the game if you have created estate-planning documents such as a last Will and testament. But if you have not included your digital assets in your Will or addressed them separately, you may not be done yet.
People are increasingly using tech to help plan for their future. "Digital estate planning" is more than writing a Will dealing with tangible assets only.
As we move more of our lives onto the cloud, it becomes increasingly important to make plans for what happens to our digital assets, from the valuable (think online bank accounts or brokerages) to the emotional (think baby photos or wedding videos).
Get Your Digital Estate Planning in Writing Put Your Digital Assets in One Place Do You Want Google to Release Your Digital Assets? Special Considerations for Cryptocurrency Include your Digital Assets in your Will
Get Your Digital Estate Planning in Writing
It is not realistic to simply expect your friends and family to log in on your behalf to either close down or clean up accounts after your passing. And more importantly, do you really want to just share your logins and passwords with them for they are still a form of personal information?
Plus, if you do not point out somewhere that you are giving your person of confidence access to your accounts, they could be charged with fraud or unlawful use. Moreover, most websites do not have mechanisms for users to designate secondary users, including heirs.
There are exceptions, Dropbox and Shutterfly for instance provide for such circumstances, and family members who have been given a power of attorney or have been appointed as a fiduciary must mail in proof of both their authority and proof that the account owner has died. When you are on digital estate planning, your Will should include language giving your person of confidence access to this type of website.
That shows the provider that the decedent (the person who died) wanted the fiduciary (the person administering the estate) to access the accounts. If the provider balks, they can be directed to the document.
Put Your Digital Assets in One Place
You probably want to give your heirs access to all your online accounts and passwords, but that is easier said than done. The average netizen has more than 100 accounts tagged to their identifiers. If it is already quite hard to keep track of your own passwords, it is going to be even tougher to keep someone else up to date.
A password manager can help. It keeps your passwords encrypted in an online vault that only you can access. In addition to making it easier for you to manage your own passwords, a password manager often allows someone else to access your passwords (and your accounts) in case of an emergency. While the methods of activating the emergency contact feature vary slightly, most password managers follow a similar protocol.
Rather than sharing all your passwords with your chosen person now, you can simply tell them that you would like them to be your “digital” emergency contact to request access should something happen to you. Once they do so, the password manager will contact you for approval. After a set period of time passes without a response from you – commonly known as ‘dead man switch’, the person making the request will receive access.
Your digital emergency contact does not receive your password, just the ability to decrypt your data. If you have not appointed an emergency contact, no one will be able to access that data.
Do You Want Google to Release Your Digital Assets?
Google lets you designate an inactive account manager who will be able to download data from your Google accounts, including Mail, Drive and YouTube. Unlike Facebook, this is triggered by inactivity rather than specific news of your death—the person will receive a notification with instructions for accessing your data if you have not logged into any of your accounts for a set period of time.
Special Considerations for Cryptocurrency
If you own Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency, it is especially important to make sure there is a way for your heir(s) to access your digital key (password) to the exchange or crypto wallet where you store the currency. Unlike other online accounts, there is no way to access those accounts without the key. If you pass away and have not shared that information, the value of those investments might be lost.
Include your Digital Assets in your Will
While thinking about your own death is never a pleasant task, taking these steps could make a difficult time for your loved ones slightly less stressful. As a result, including your digital assets in your Will makes the most sense if you wish to address those issues in the most efficient way.
As with all estate planning, you probably want to revisit your digital plan every few years to adjust for new accounts and changes in your relationships. If you get married or divorced, for example, you may want to make sure that the person you have designated as your digital heir is still the right one.
Writing your Will is the very first step, and it’s an important one. But that’s not enough. In the digital age, the next step is to store your Will online. Otherwise, what happens if your person of confidence is not able to find your Will in a timely manner? liteWill is the only Will registration platform that is available globally and that provides the option to store your Will online. ‘A Will that is not online is like a Will that does not exist’.
This portion of the website is for information only. The statements and opinions are the expression of their author, not of liteWill, and have not been evaluated for accuracy, completeness or changes in the law. Information contained in this article is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.
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