What happens to your email after you die? What about your Facebook account? Logins and passwords for important online accounts? Protecting digital assets isn’t something most people think of when they consider an estate plan, but it’s increasingly becoming something people need.
If this isn’t a modern problem that requires a modern solution, we don’t know what is! As owning digital assets becomes more and more the norm, estate plans need to incorporate digital assets into the master plan. Our team of in-house attorneys can help you protect all of your assets with a comprehensive estate plan.
What are digital assets?
Digital assets include:
- Domain names
- Electronically stored photos and videos
- Social media accounts
- Non-fungible tokens
- Digital rights
- Even things like online video channels
Many of these things can be passed on to your heirs when you pass away. But without accounting for these assets, your heirs may not be able to access them. That means they could be lost for good, including the money attached to them.
Obstacles to protecting digital assets
If you’re not the original owner, gaining access to digital assets can be a real challenge. Not only are they password protected and sometimes data encrypted, but laws can have a hard time keeping up with the speed at which technology changes. Both privacy and criminal laws can make it hard to gain access to digital assets that aren’t originally your own.
Without naming your digital assets in your estate plan, your loved ones could be prevented from accessing them completely due to these laws.
Get started protecting your digital assets
The simplest way to begin to protect your digital assets is by making a list. Write down your email addresses and associated passwords, along with links to the login screens. List out every account you want your loved ones to have access to, with directions on logging in and navigating the site.
Keep your list in a secure location, and make sure your heirs know where to find it.
If you have important documents saved in the cloud, consider keeping a backup on your local computer or storage device. Again, make sure to keep a record of where and how your heirs can access this information.
Most importantly, consult with your attorney and make it explicitly clear in your estate plan that you give your heirs permission to access your digital assets. eLegacy is a law firm with in-house attorneys that handle your estate planning, including doing everything possible to protect your digital assets. You won’t be left alone to cobble together DIY legal documents.
Protect your digital assets by killing them off
Not everyone wants their family to have access to their digital assets. In fact, you may want the opposite. According to the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, if you don’t want your heirs to have access to your digital assets, simply leave them out of your estate plan. They won’t be able to manage anything if you haven’t planned for that.
In most cases, nothing happens to your digital accounts when you die. Some, like Facebook and Google, offer inactive account managers or legacy account holders, where you can appoint someone to manage your account when you die. Most email accounts are deactivated and die a digital death after 365 days of inactivity.
Without explicit directions lined out in an estate plan, you lose control over what happens to your email after you die. Gaining access to an account or getting it shut down — whether it’s through Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, or others — is a tedious process. For Microsoft Outlook, for example, you’ll need to provide a death certificate, a document showing you’re next of kin, the original owners first and last name, address, date of birth, when the account was created, and when it was last accessed.
Gaining access to digital accounts can be next to impossible because of existing laws and data encryption. But with an estate plan, you’ll provide your heirs with peace of mind.
Schedule a complimentary consultation with our team and let’s talk about what an estate plan could look like for you. Everything will be absolutely confidential and can be done from the comfort of home.