With rapid advancements in technology, more “every day” things are being managed online, or through apps on cell phones. Bills may be received by email, and paid securely online. Documents can be stored in secure clouds or “online vaults.”
It is important to make sure your loved ones are aware of what digital assets you own, as well as what you would like done with them when and if you are not able to manage them. While the law is still developing as to how to best plan for digital assets, there are some steps you can follow.
- Inventory Your Digital Assets, and How to Access Each One
Nearly everyone owns at least one digital asset – such as a social media account, online banking account, online hardware, websites, blogs etc. Digital assets may include:
- Computing hardware: computers, laptops, external hard drives, tablets, smartphones, digital camera, digital music players, etc.;
- Information and/or data that is stored electronically;
- Online accounts: email, banking, social media, shopping, photo/video sharing, gaming, online storage, websites and blogs;
- Domain names; and
- Intellectual property: copyrights, trademarks, code you may have written and own
Be sure to also include how your personal representative can access the assets. You may compile a list of your logins and passwords and keep it in a safe place where it can be accessible if needed. You can also use a password manager program, and share access information to that single account. If you have computing hardware, it is important that your personal representative know where they are located, as well as any passwords that may be required to access those devices.
- Name a Digital Personal Representative
You will want to name someone who you trust to carry out your wishes regarding your digital assets. This may be the same person you name as personal representative of your estate. If you have a friend or family member who is particularly savvy with technology, you may want to assign this duty to them.
- Decide What You Want Done with Your Digital Assets
Decide what you would like done with each digital asset. While you may want some to be archived or saved, you may want others to be deleted or erased. You can also leave certain assets to family or friends. Be sure your personal representative knows how you would like each asset to be handled.
If you have digital assets that have monetary value, such as intellectual property or a website/domain, you may want to instruct your personal representative as to how to handle that assets. For example, would you like the asset to be transferred to an individual who will continue to manage it? If so, where will that income go? Do you wish for the asset to be sold?
- Store Information in a Secure, but Accessible, Location
Once you have compiled a list of your digital assets (including login and passwords), as well as your wishes concerning each, it is important to store this information in a secure location, but one that will also be accessible if the documents are needed. Physical copies may be kept in a file cabinet, lockbox or safe. You can also store this information in a secure app or on a secure website – just as long as the personal representative knows how to access it.
- Ensure the Plan is Legal
Have a properly drafted and legally executed estate plan can incorporate plans for digital assets. An estate plan can also designate authority to a personal representative to manage your digital assets. If your wishes have not been expressed in a legally enforceable document, such as a will or trust, they most likely will not be followed.
Schromen Law, LLC works with clients to come up with a plan regarding their digital assets, when needed. With more and more information being stored digitally, and accounts being managed digitally, it is oftentimes extremely important to ensure your family and loved ones know how to access your digital assets.
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.