When someone passes away, a will determines how the individual’s assets are distributed. For example, you can advise whether your home, business, heirlooms and other assets go directly to your children or whether they will be donated to a charity upon your death.
In today’s digital age, however, it is equally important to ensure your digital assets - such as social media accounts, intellectual property, and online information - is properly protected. You can have peace of mind regarding the future of your digital footprint by creating a digital estate plan. We’ve broken the process into five steps that should help you get started with this much-needed process.
1. Make a List of Digital Assets
The first step in preparing a digital estate plan is gathering up all of your important assets. You do not want any vital information overlooked or left in a position where it could become compromised. Think hard and make sure you cover all your social media profiles, email accounts and information regarding your intellectual property (such as blogs or artwork.) In addition, you will need to provide instructions for accessing the assets. This would include login and password information and perhaps even answers to security questions, as that can be useful, too.
2. Designate a Digital Executor
While you may want to save some of your digital data, you also may have sensitive information contained in some of your accounts that needs to be deleted. Assuring that the information is properly disbursed is a serious job. This is why designating a digital executor is so important. This person will be combing through your accounts for the data you want to be saved or items of value, and he or she should be someone you trust explicitly to follow your instructions.
3. Outline Your Wishes for Each Asset
It is vital that you provide direction for how the digital executor should manage your digital assets in your absence. For example, with social media, you will need to state whether you want your accounts deleted, memorialized or even transferred to another person. By doing this, you can feel confident your private information remains secure while digital property you want to become or remain public will do so.
4. Store Information in a Secure Location
When you put this information together, you’ll have usernames, passwords and a “map” to utilize it all. To protect your online security NOW, make sure you store this information in a safe location.
5. Formalize your Digital Estate Plan
Finally, you want to make sure your wishes are legalized, so you can feel confident they will be followed if you pass away or become unable to manage your own matters. This can be put into a legally binding contract such as your will. However, it’s important to note that your will becomes a public document when you die; therefore, it’s best to leave out any sensitive information like passwords and other access information. Simply refer to an outside document in your will with the information needed to settle your digital estate.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of a digital estate plan. As soon as possible, go ahead and work through the steps above to ensure your digital assets are properly protected and managed in the event of your death. If you’d like to learn more about estate planning services and how they can benefit you, reach out to us at Caldwell Trust today.