Digital estate planning is an increasingly important aspect of modern estate management, reflecting the growing digital footprint in the lives of American adults. In the simplest terms, digital estate planning involves making arrangements for your digital assets after an individual’s death or incapacitation.
Just as you need to plan for the distribution of your physical assets in the event of your death, digital estate planning helps to ensure that your online presence and digital properties are handled according to your wishes in the event of your death or incapacity.
What are digital assets?
Digital assets encompass a wide range of digital materials and accounts. These can include social media profiles, emails, digital photos and videos, online banking and investment accounts, websites or blogs, digital music and book libraries and even cryptocurrency. For many Americans, these assets hold significant financial, sentimental or practical value, which is why they must be addressed explicitly in an estate planning context.
A relatively comprehensive digital estate plan typically includes:
- An inventory: This list should detail all your digital assets, including usernames, passwords, and any other necessary information to access these accounts. It’s crucial to keep this inventory updated and securely stored.
- The designation of a digital executor: This is the person who will manage your digital assets after your death. This role requires someone who is trustworthy and ideally, tech-savvy.
- Instructions for individual assets: You should provide clear instructions on what should be done with each digital asset. Some may need to be deleted, others transferred to family members and some may require ongoing management.
By taking the time to create a comprehensive digital estate plan, you can provide clear instructions for the management of your digital assets, helping to ensure that they are handled properly and securely after your death or if you are incapacitated and cannot manage them on your own anymore.