If you’re like most Americans, you have a rich digital life. You may bank online, invest online and certainly interact socially online. But where do those assets go after you go? And how will your loved one’s get access to them, if you haven’t left behind specific instructions and passwords?
Unfortunately, identity theft is rising even for the deceased. A couple of years ago, TIME magazine reported that over 2.5 million Americans became victims of identity theft after they died. Disposition of digital assets, like any other property, should be part of your estate plan. Here are some tips for protecting your digital assets after death:
Take inventory of your digital assets. Start by making a list of all your online accounts, including the website addresses, your usernames and passwords for each account. Digital assets can also include documents on your computer – photos, videos or anything else you have created that may have value. Store these assets in a secure system such as PasswordBox, SecureSafe or other Web-based digital asset management systems.
Determine what you want to happen with your digital assets. You may want to pass along your more personal digital assets like family photos to your heirs. Facebook allows accounts to be closed or set up as a memorial. Google allows its users to designate a beneficiary for all Google accounts or through its Inactive Account Manager. If you have a Yahoo! website or email account, it will be closed upon your death if your executor provides Yahoo with the proper proof. Be clear about what you want and then provide the instructions and means for that to be carried out.
Create documentation giving your executor access to your digital accounts. You can either have your estate executor take care of the disposition of your digital assets or create a separate power of attorney for digital assets if you want to have another family member take care of closing down or transferring your accounts. However, bank, retirement and investment accounts will pass to those named on beneficiary forms, so be sure those are kept up to date.
To review an existing estate plan or create one for yourself and your family that includes the management of your digital assets, contact a Personal Family Lawyer® today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about a Family Wealth Planning Session.