Technology use is so prevalent nowadays that most people have multiple forms of digital assets remaining when they die. Unfortunately, most forget to plan for these assets, making it difficult for family members to access them or to know what to do with them. Here are some things to consider when making an estate plan for digital assets.
What Are Digital Assets?
Digital assets cover quite a range of accounts and activities. Some examples are:
- Social Media Accounts
- Digital Communications (i.e. Emails & Voicemails)
- Personal Websites & Blogs
- Domain Ownership
- Media Storage (Photos, Videos, Podcasts, etc.)
- Software Licenses
- Frequent Flyer Miles
Why It May Not Be Easy to Access Digital Assets
Companies that provide and maintain digital assets are often concerned about privacy. You’ve probably heard past news blurbs about Apple refusing to unlock the iPhone of a domestic terror suspect. When using such services, you have a certain expectation of privacy, and that remains intact whether you are living or deceased. Another concern is the ability for someone to steal an identity through use of digital assets. Thus, gaining access to accounts is not an easy task.
How to Make an Estate Plan for Digital Assets
To make an estate plan for digital assets, you must do more than merely mention the accounts in your plan. There’s no guarantee that a digital asset provider will grant you access to an account, as their internal rules may prohibit it. Thus, you must take a multi-faceted approach.
Express Your Wishes
First, list your digital asset accounts. This should include the name of the providers and details on the assets. Indicate your wishes for each. For instance, would you like certain digital assets changed, deleted, or transferred to a family member?
Create Authority to Access
A well drafted Power of Attorney should specifically authorize your agent to access your digital assets in the event of your disability or incapacity. Also, your Trust (or Will if no Trust is in place) should specifically authorize access to your digital assets upon your death. This is critical to document your intent and create the power in your fiduciary to address these assets.
Provide Access to Passwords
Username and password information is a sensitive and difficult aspect of addressing digital assets. Consider using a password management program for this. This can really facilitate your estate plan for digital assets. For instance, Lastpass is an online password keeper. As a company, they will not grant another individual access to your password list. However, they do have a feature where you can pre-authorize someone to have emergency access to your account. Should something happen to you, the authorized person would request account access. There is a required waiting period, during which time they notify your account of the request and give you time to deny it.
Start Planning for Your Digital Assets Today
Digital assets are one of many components to a proper estate plan. To get started with your Massachusetts estate plan, contact us to schedule a consultation. We can evaluate all aspects of your estate and help you prepare a comprehensive plan that both protects your assets and complies with your wishes.