Have you planned for you Digital Assets?

Many New Year resolutions involve completion of estate planning documents.  I have previously written about the importance of such documents so I will not reiterate here other than to say if you do not have them, why are you waiting?

For those who do have estate planning documents I recommend, at least once a year, that you take a few moments to ensure that they remain accurate and up to date.  Also be sure to check the beneficiary designations on all of your retirement accounts and life insurance to ensure those assets are passing according to your wishes. You must also now plan for a new class of assets.

In our age of constantly changing technology most folks now have digital identities.  To maintain your digital identity after you are gone, you must now also plan for your “digital assets”.  What are digital assets? Social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest as well as online forums etc… Basically anywhere where you may have an online presence that has value to you is a digital asset. In addition to personal data and photos many of these accounts contain life events and timelines of your life and while they do not have monetary value, they do have great personal and sentimental value to you and your loved ones.

Some states have now recognized these assets and allow for their owners to include them in estate plans, which means that one may direct how these assets pass and to whom.  (For those local to us, Pennsylvania and West Virginia do not yet recognize such assets).  That does not mean, however, that you cannot include these assets in your “plans”.

I have always been an advocate of leaving an information sheet with your estate planning documents.  It should include information such as where to find your important papers, your credit card accounts with contact information, your banking, brokerage and retirement accounts with contact information, and other vital information related to your estate. (Contact us for  free Estate Information Sheet).

I now recommend that you include with this information the existence of all of your social media accounts and passwords, and, perhaps your safety questions in the event you lose your password.  In states where digital assets are recognized, an executor of an estate would have the authority to contact social media sites without passwords and get access to the accounts.  In states where digital assets are not recognized, they would not be able to access these accounts.  If you leave your account information and passwords your executor or a trusted loved one could access your accounts and control them according to your wishes.

Take a few minutes today to take an inventory of your digital assets and think about how you would want them handled.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them or contact our office.