Today, our society lives in a digital age. We have so much available at our fingertips that we often overlook how dependent or reliant we are on such modern technology. We can log onto Facebook and chat with a friend or distant relative we haven’t seen in 10 or so years. We have the chance to log onto Netflix and binge watch our favorite shows. We can also store endless documents and photos on Drop Box and access it from anywhere. While we are grateful for society’s advances in technology, there are still many questions that remain unanswered. What will happen to our Facebook accounts when we pass away? What happens to our Netflix accounts? Where do all our endless documents and photos on Drop Box end up?
As digital assets become more common, it’s important for us to incorporate them into our estate plans for safe keeping. Unfortunately, that’s not the easiest task to do. However, it is critical if we want our assets to be accessible after our death. According to a 2013 study conducted by McAfee, the average person has about $35,000 worth of assets stored on digital devices. These assets include, but are not limited to, movies, books, music, games, personal records, career information, banking information, and personal photographs. Moreover, this study also found that 55% of the participants surveyed believed that most of their stored assets would be impossible to restore or recreate.
Some individuals believe they can gain immediate access to the digital assets of the deceased because they are direct heirs, but the process isn’t quite that simple. Many digital accounts contain complex terms and service agreements that make it nearly impossible for heirs to gain access to. It causes relentless frustration to heirs and in most cases these digital assets are lost as many contain passwords, data privacy laws, and encryption.
Although there are many initiatives underway regarding digital assets, it’s important to create an estate plan that includes important directions, usernames, passwords, and other essential information regarding your estate plan. The following steps are essential to creating an estate plan with digital assets:
1. Make a List of Your Digital Assets
This includes listing information such as computing hardware, domain names, email accounts, intellectual property, social media account usernames/passwords, and even online banking accounts. Also be sure to also make a note of any information that is stored electronically.
2. Decide What To Do with Your Digital Assets
Leave important directions regarding how each digital asset should be handled. For example, would you like certain assets to be archived, transferred, or erased? Also if you have any assets of monetary value it is important to instruct your Executor how you would like those digital assets to be dealt with.
3. Name a Digital Executor
It’s extremely important to name someone you trust as your digital Executor. They are responsible for carrying out the wishes you specify about your digital assets.
4. Meet With an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
You can secure information regarding your digital assets with an experienced estate planning attorney. Not only will it remain safe, but also it will become legal.
Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney in order to make sure all your digital assets are included in your estate plan. Contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn for your estate planning needs for more information. Call us at (718) 333-2394.