There is an entire category of assets which, too often, are overlooked when planning your legacy – digital assets. Perhaps you didn’t even consider these items to be “assets” when you set up your own will or trust. If so, there is no need to worry as they are somewhat straightforward to address.
The first item to consider involves figuring out what, exactly, you even own in the form of digital assets. Common digital assets 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
NOTE: because technology is ever-evolving, more items will undoubtedly be added to the digital assets landscape as the months and years go by
These assets can have real value, as is the case with virtual currency accounts, a URL, or digital business assets. As a result, you should no longer adopt a wait-and-see approach for these assets; your legacy likely includes more than the traditional “financial” inheritance you want to pass along. Of course, many digital assets, such as virtual photos and computer files, may carry a large amount of sentimental value as well. Needless to say, it is wise to consider exactly how you’d like to pass on your digital assets. Here are 3 tips to get you started:
- Inventory your digital assets. Create a list of every online account you use. If you run a business, be sure to include any helpful spreadsheets, digital records, client files, databases, etc. (although, much of this should also be addressed as part of your business succession plan). Essentially, if it exists in cyberspace, connects to it or pertains to it, be sure to include it on the list for your family, executor/personal representative, trustee, and/or attorney to help collect once you are gone.
- Designate a “cyber successor”. A cyber successor is someone you trust wholeheartedly to access your accounts on your behalf after you are gone or, alternatively, in the event you are incapacitated. Ensure he/she can access your accounts in a timely manner. Of course, you should also take care in safeguarding your digital assets as to avoid unauthorized access, identity theft, or data loss.
- 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 your power of attorney document. Consult with an estate planning attorney to determine the best way to determine how to do so. Keep in mind, the laws in this arena are evolving. There are, however, wonderful programs that permit many of these assets to be saved in a secure “e-vault” for your exclusive use (features also permit restricted access to certain named individuals).
Potential Pitfalls of Cyber Estate Planning: The worst thing you can do is nothing. This could result in the loss of digital family photo albums, disruption of your business, or worse. If this process feels daunting or you’re still not sure where or how to start, give us a call. We can help you identify, track, and protect your digital assets to give you peace of mind.