If your digital estate is not properly cared for, it can lead to problems for your heirs, including an opportunity for hackers to try to get at whatever assets they can, reports the White Mountain Independent in the article titled “Is your ‘digital estate’ in order?”
Think about how many of your personal accounts are online:
- Financial accounts: banking, brokerage, bill-paying utilities;
- Virtual property: credit card points, frequent flyer miles, cryptocurrency;
- Business accounts: eBay, Amazon, Etsy; stock photo accounts;
- Email accounts: Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo;
- Social network: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram; and
- Online digital storage: Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud.
Those are many assets to protect. Where do you start?
First, create an inventory. Use the categories above or create your own. However, you should make it organized.
Document your wishes for how you want your digital assets to be managed. If you don’t specify this, you may be leaving a wide-open arena for long legal battles. Your heirs and beneficiaries may never gain access to them. Hackers might go after them and use your identity. Your heirs may also have to engage in an expensive and protracted battle with a social media giant with costs eating into their inheritance.
Name a digital executor in your will. This is a relatively new area, but you can name a person to be your digital executor. Not all states recognize this position, so you’ll want to speak with a local estate planning attorney to find out what the laws are in your state.
Ensure your estate planning documents include the authorization to access your accounts. Depending on the state you are in, the access to your digital assets on your death will be determined by the terms of the account, as well as your estate planning documents. It is important that your documents allow for the access and management of your digital assets on your death.
Review your plans, especially as you add new digital assets.
Managing digital assets can be as difficult as managing tangible assets. The laws are still evolving, so speak with your estate planning attorney to make sure that your estate is prepared, and your heirs will not face a digital nightmare after you have passed away.
Reference: White Mountain Independent (Oct. 26, 2018) “Is your ‘digital estate’ in order?”