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Estate Planning in the Digital Age

Like many 20-and 30-somethings, my husband and I have long put off addressing our estate planning needs. Finally, after I had completed every last procrastination chore I could think of, I realized I was out of excuses and it was time to get drafting. While most people think to plan for the disposition of their tangible and intangible property, digital assets are often overlooked.  Due to our ever-growing web presence, failure to account for these digital asset can lead to a host of problems after we are gone. Here a couple things to consider when making your digital estate plan:

  1. Inventory Your Digital Assets

First, you should start by making a list of your digital assets. This can include social media accounts, financial and business accounts, hardware, and personal electronic data. Without an inventory, your executor may not know what digital assets exist in the first place, and could have trouble tracking everything down. This may potentially result in assets being lost, or worse, it could put your estate at risk for identity theft and fraud. Creating and maintaining inventories of your electronic data, including login information, will save your executor the headache as well as protect your estate from financial loss.

  1. Decide What Should Be Done with Your Assets

Your estate planning documents should clearly indicate what you wish to happen to your digital assets. Even with access to your login credentials, your executor may have trouble showing they have the right to access your accounts. Make sure to review the terms of service agreements for each of your accounts to determine if they include a mechanism that allows you to dictate what happens to your account upon death. In the absence of such a mechanism, you need to clearly state that your executor should have complete access to your digital accounts, including access to content.

  1. Name a Digital Executor

Finally, you should think carefully about who should act as executor.  Make sure that you choose someone with at least some technical knowledge, and consider what information they will have access to. Remember, your digital assets include personal photos, emails, texts messages, online dating accounts, browser histories, and social media accounts. Designating the appropriate person to take care of this material can prevent your friends and loved ones from discovering damaging or embarrassing private information after you are gone.

Take some time to think about your wishes and then meet with an estate planning attorney to get those wishes put into place.

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