What will happen to your digital assets if you die?
Do your social media account factor into your financial plan? I was a heavy user of Facebook from 2008-2016, then left it completely for over a year. During that time away, I really didn’t miss it. Sure, I was less informed about some community groups and events that I do care about, and perhaps I was less aware of what was going on in the lives of my acquaintances. But I was also less aware of the points with which I disagreed with my neighbors about politics. That was a very good thing.
I re-activated my account this year, partly because we are starting to use social media to communicate with our clients. When I logged back on, I was reminded immediately of the wealth of sentimental data that is stored in my Facebook account. I was met with photos and videos of my children, quotes from their early days of talking, memories of family trips, and much more.
“Digital assets are today’s shoeboxes of photos, letters and other mementos,” according to Drake University Law School Professor Natalie Banta in the article “Estate planning for your digital assets” [Follow her on Twitter].
She is right. This has created a new challenge for estate planning and has necessitated some new laws about how these assets are treated after death. It is important for users of online accounts to plan for who will be able to access these accounts after their death, and how they will do it.
For most of us, these digital assets won’t have a large financial value. However, there may be a high financial cost in accessing the sentimental value if you do not plan for the transition.
For that reason, it is wise to include digital assets in your estate plan. We can help you gather your information and include these provisions in your overall financial plan, and we will work with your attorney to make it a part of your legal documents.
To protect your privacy as well as your family’s ability to access your “digital shoebox”:
1. Make a list of the digital accounts you own, and how you would like them to be handled after your death. State which ones should be accessed, and which should be terminated.
2. Use a password tool to store passwords for your online accounts and leave instructions for accessing the tool. Alternatively, you can write the passwords on paper and store it in a secure location that can be found by your executor, although this will require frequent updates.
3. Check the online providers that you use the most to see if they have an online tool to facilitate the transfer of these assets. Google and Facebook have begun to offer this.