Estate Planning 101: Making Sense of Digital Assets

Estate planning isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time – but it’s one of the most important steps you can take to make the transition easier for your loved ones after you’ve passed on. 

A big piece of estate planning that’s often overlooked is digital assets. Today, we’re walking through the basics of organizing your digital assets to include in your estate plan – let’s get started. 

What are Digital Assets?

Digital assets are anything you own that exists via a computer or the internet. Your list of digital assets might include:

  • Social media accounts, such as Facebook, Youtube or Instagram
  • Online shopping accounts (Amazon, Apple, etc.)
  • Television streaming subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, etc.)
  • An online journal or blog
  • Email accounts

Think about the various ways you use your computer on a daily basis – what websites do you visit? What documents do you have stored online? Where do you have accounts set up with a username and password?

Why Do You Need a Digital Estate Plan?

There are several reasons why you might want to invest in a digital estate plan. Whether it’s ensuring your accounts are properly closed or keeping your loved ones in the loop, here are a few key steps you can take to organize and protect your computer-based commodities. 

To Close Accounts

After you’ve passed, your accounts will need to be properly shut down – especially any that are set up to automatically pay a monthly bill straight from your bank account credit cards. If you pass away in February but Netflix doesn’t hear the news until August, that’s several months’ worth of subscription fees down the drain. It may not seem like much, but if you have several such accounts, it can add up quickly.

In addition to costs, open accounts leave you at risk for stolen information. Think about how much personal information is stored online these days – your name, birthdate, mailing address, payment information, and so on. 

Sometimes shutting down an account is as easy as clicking “unsubscribe.” In other cases, there may be more hoops your loved ones will have to jump through to reach the finish line. 

For example, Google allows you to name someone as your Inactive Account Manager by providing the phone number of a trusted person who will be the sole person able to download your personal data from Drive, Gmail and other Google services. 

On Amazon, loved ones can simply call customer service in order to start the process of closing an account, but they may request a death certificate as proof in some cases. 

You can help make things easier on loved ones by keeping your passwords in one place so they can access the accounts themselves. To learn about ways to safely store your passwords, read our previous blog on password security.

To Keep Loved Ones in the Loop

Another reason to get your digital assets organized? To keep your not-so-local loved ones in the loop. 

Although your closest family and friends will likely know of your passing quickly, you might have others who’d like to know that you’ve passed. Social media and email can help here.

Facebook allows you to create a legacy contact, someone you have chosen to manage your profile after your death. They will be able to make all decisions relating to your account, such as posting on your behalf to share memorial information or deleting the profile entirely. 

If you’re not big on the social media circuit, you may also want to leave your email login for your spouse or another trusted confidant. They will be able to set up an autoreply email informing anyone who attempts to contact you via email that you’ve passed. 

For Organization’s Sake

The last major reason to organize your digital assets is fairly obvious: to be organized. After you’re gone, your loved ones will be busy grieving and processing the loss, as well as trying to sift through all the pieces you’ve left behind. Organization on your part ahead of time can help ease this burden.

Let your spouse, child or trusted family member know where important documents are stored online and how to get to them. You should also write down what can be deleted and what should be saved, and for what purposes. 

How to Handle Digital Assets

The best way to get a handle on your digital assets is with a list. Make a list of all the accounts you currently own, then keep it by your computer for a few days to add more items as you think of them.

As we’ve mentioned, part of estate planning is finding someone you trust to help out after you’re no longer around. When it comes to digital assets, this person is called a digital executor

Your digital executor should be tech-savvy and know their way around the web. They could be the same person serving as executor of your will, if that makes the most sense for your situation. 

Next, you’ll want to create a spreadsheet that lists all accounts – you can use your list from earlier as reference. Include the login information and detailed notes on exactly what you wish to be done with the account. 

Click here to download or make a copy of our Digital Assets spreadsheet to help you get started!

You don’t need to include your list of accounts with login info in your will. Rather, your will should only state who you’ve chosen as your digital executor and then give instructions on how to find this information.

With an organized and detailed spreadsheet that includes all of your online accounts, your loved ones will be set to easily parse through your digital assets after your passing. 

Protect Your Estate Plan with Clarity

Ready to get your estate plan in order? Click here to connect with a Clarity team member today – we’d be happy to help!

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