4 Steps to Protect your Online Accounts and other Digital Assets
With most Americans relying on electronic networks for life management, it begs the question: what happens when we die or become too sick to manage our online life?
Traditional estate plans focus on real estate, bank accounts and tangible items such as family heirlooms. But if you if you generally conduct online banking, have a social media account, own digital media such as photographs or music, you may have to take a proactive approach to digital asset planning.
So how do you make your estate plan digitally apt? The following recommended steps can help you achieve this:
1. Inventory your Digital Assets.
Write down and store in a place where your trusted people can locate a list of all of your digitally significant information. Make this a workable, ongoing document. For example, a list of online accounts and respective logon and password information, such as email, social media, PayPal, banking and investment accounts as well as digital property (including domain names and virtual currency). There are several customizable password protective websites that can help you manage your digital assets as well as name those authorized to access specific accounts, such as LastPass.
2. Understand what you really own.
There are instances where you may have thought you purchased a digital asset, but in fact you purchased a only a license to use the asset. That’s the case when you buy music, movies or books on iTunes®. Meaning, there may be a limitation to how many times you can download or upload the content to a CD or flash drive.
3. Update your privacy settings.
Some platforms such as Google and Facebook have built-in features, such as a “legacy contact” or “inactive account manager” which allows a trusted individual to manage your accounts after passing. However, a proactive approach to digital estate planning is still the best course of action (see below).
4. Provide consent in legal documents to allow release of certain information to a Digital Personal Representative.
Work with an estate planning attorney to update your wills, powers of attorney, and living trusts. They should include language giving lawful consent for providers to divulge the contents of your electronic information to your selected people. You also might consider exactly which information you want to make available because you may not want to make all digital assets accessible to your fiduciaries.
Call our office today for assistance with protecting your online profile.