Today’s estate planning scene is far different from it was a few decades ago. That’s because individuals today have their traditional assets— such as house, money, and possessions— as well as an array of digital assets— like photos, videos, documents, programs, and accounts. If you pass away unexpectedly, your loved ones rely on your will or estate plan for the information that they need to sort out your affairs. You may have already completed a will that deals with all of your money, real estate, and personal possessions— but what about your online accounts or other digital assets?
Think about your digital accounts and information right now. You probably have bank accounts, accounts with your mortgage company and credit card holders, email accounts, social media accounts, and accounts with various websites from whom you’ve ordered products. How about your digital video libraries and music libraries? Those have intrinsic value that you could potentially pass on to someone in your family.
Are you feeling overwhelmed just thinking about your digital assets? Chances are, it’s a lot more complex than you realized. That’s why you need an estate planning attorney who can help you break it down into manageable chunks. Before you visit your lawyer, here are a few things to consider when planning for your digital assets.
- Photos and Videos
You’ve probably taken hundreds, if not thousands of photos and videos during your lifetime. Are they stored on your personal computer or in a cloud storage account? Either way, your loved ones need file location and password information to retrieve those precious keepsakes. If you have produced original content, such as books, poems, articles, scripts, music, or code that is unique to you, leave directions regarding who receives the rights to those digital items.
- Financial Accounts
Now it’s time to make a list of all your finance-related accounts. This includes bank accounts, accounts with your credit card companies, and your accounts with any real estate companies or mortgage holders. Be sure to add an extra layer of protection when you store the access information for these accounts.
You may have some memberships that are set up to automatically renew each year. Make sure that your family is aware of these through your estate plan, and give them the tools that they need to cancel the subscriptions or memberships after you pass away or upon your incapacitation.
- Email and Social Media
In most cases, your social media and email accounts will move into a dormant state when you don’t use them for a long period of time. However, hackers can occasionally take advantage of unused accounts and exploit them. You may want to leave your family with the information that they need to access these online accounts, inform your contacts of you passing, and then close out the accounts.
- Secure Storage
You may find that creating an Excel spreadsheet of all this information helps you keep it more organized. Identify the type of account, the organization with whom you have the online account, your username, your password, and other important information. Protect the Excel spreadsheet with a password while you are working on it. When you’re done, put the spreadsheet on a flash drive and store it in a safety deposit box. There are also a number of digital gatekeepers and password storage services you can use; but these may be vulnerable to hackers. If you want to go the old-fashioned route, write the information on a piece of paper and lock it up in a fireproof box at home or in a safety deposit box.
No matter how you choose to protect your digital assets, be sure to consult your Maryland estate planning lawyer and leave access instructions in your estate plan. Call today to set up an appointment and protect your digital life!
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About Nicole K. White
After losing a close relative, Nicole witnessed the devastation, enormous expense and chaos caused by not having a simple estate plan. It is Nicole’s mission to educate parents, especially single parents, about protecting themselves, their families, minor children, and assets with comprehensive Estate Planning.