Most of us have accumulated digital assets on one or several devices that have either sentimental or financial value. It’s time to consider that those assets are an important part of your estate whether you want to pass them down or have them deleted. As Part Two to this article about how to handle digital assets in your estate plan, I will provide ways to help ensure that this property is not lost forever.
Step One – Create a Digital Inventory
Only you know what digital assets are stored on your devices and which ones that you would want your loved ones to access. It's imperative that you take inventory and make a comprehensive list complete with username and password for each asset that you choose to pass on. There are convenient password managers that can help simplify this effort or you can write the information down on a piece of paper to store with your other estate planning documents. If you own cryptocurrency, consider leaving detailed instructions because your relatives may not understand or know about how they work. Also, be aware that this information should not be attached to your will as that document could become public once it is filed with the Probate Court at your death. Lastly, it’s important to remember that your instructions should include what devices store which asset.
Step Two – Include Your Digital Assets in Your Plan
Now that you have gathered your digital assets information, consider to whom you intend that asset to be distributed. Do you want all your photos to be given to your children? Should your cryptocurrency be divided among several beneficiaries? You can specify what you want done with a particular asset in your will or trust document including those certain accounts that you want closed or deleted by your chosen fiduciary. And if you have numerous encrypted digital assets, consider naming a separate co-fiduciary to manage them.
Step Three – Review the Terms of Service for Your Accounts
The last and most laborious step is to determine what kind of access the service provider will allow. Some like Google, Facebook, and Instagram provide tools that allow you to easily designate to whom you will permit access but it’s important to include the same information in your plan. If the fiduciaries you name in your estate plan conflict with the names given your service provider, the provider will default to information that you supplied rather than what you included in your estate plan. And most service providers will not allow access without your specific instructions and/or login information, a death certificate, and proof that your fiduciary is a lawful representative. As with all of your documents, it’s essential that you keep your choices up to date and in sync.
Including digital asset information is an often-overlooked step in the process of creating your estate plan. It’s easy to forget that our devices contain important and sentimental value and for the most part, shouldn’t be lost when we die. We are here to assist you in not only creating a plan for your more traditional property but for your digital assets as well.
This article was written by Lynn Girvin of Lynn K. Girvin Law. We are here to help you make informed and empowered decisions for your life and the people you love. We offer comprehensive estate planning services and walk you through every step. Get started by calling our office today at (714) 619-4145 to schedule an appointment. We look forward to hearing from you!