Leaving a Digital Legacy: The Importance of Passing on Your Virtual Assets in Your Will

The rise of social media and digital platforms has provided young people with unprecedented opportunities to generate wealth by becoming influencers. Through engaging content creation, strategic brand partnerships, and a dedicated online following, young influencers can build lucrative careers, monetize their personal brand, and capitalize on their influence to create substantial financial success. However, it is important to remember that your social media accounts and literal name holds monetary value that can be used as a security blanket for future heirs to come. Let’s explore the world of digital assets and then discuss the estate planning considerations you should make now to protect your digital assets.

Leaving a Digital Legacy: Passing on Your Virtual Assets

What are Digital Assets?

Digital assets in a will refer to virtual properties and possessions that are of value. This encompasses many things such as social media profiles, online banking and investment accounts, digital wallets, subscription-based services such as Patreon and Twitch, cryptocurrencies, NFTS, and more. Including subscription-based assets in your will is a relatively new concept within the realm of estate planning; it reflects the evolving nature of income generation in the modern era.

In particular, certain subscription-based services offer influencers the ability to accumulate significant earnings, enabling them to make substantial investments such as real estate property. Being an influencer goes beyond mere appearances on Instagram and promoting sponsored products. It provides individuals with an opportunity to leave a lasting impact not only in the virtual world but also on their financial stability. As the influence of digital platforms and content creation continues to grow, it is important for influencers and content creators to consider the management and succession of their digital assets.

Social Media Put Into Perspective

The more followers you have, the more your Instagram account is worth. While this may appear self-evident, individuals who have recently gained fame on the internet might not fully understand the significance of including their social media accounts in their wills. 

For example, the standard rate for Instagram varies based on the sponsor and contract, typically set at $10 per 1,000 followers. On average, a 100k Instagram account can earn $700-$900 per post while those with 500k followers can earn $2,000 to $3,000 per sponsored post. Most influencers post from a few times a week to multiple times a day depending on niche and audience engagement. If you are an influencer with a backing of 500k followers and a posting schedule of 5 times a week, flowing income is $15,000 a week solely from Instagram. When combined with income from other platforms, this financial success serves as a compelling reason for influencers to establish a will, ensuring their assets are properly managed and distributed in the event of their passing.

The Significance of Initiating a Will

  1. Digital Asset Management

If you were to pass away without including your digital assets in a will, your family would be unable to legally access your accounts. Without access details and clear instructions, your family will face challenges in effectively managing your online presence such as social media accounts, sponsored partnerships, and other digital assets. The lack of authorized access prevents the proper administration and continuation of the influencer’s online brand and leads to the loss of potential income streams. 

Additionally, any unresolved legal issues that may arise pertaining to the ownership and distribution of these digital assets will cause further complications and potential dispute between beneficiaries. Including online properties and assets in a comprehensive estate plan like a will helps avoid these challenges and allows a smooth transition.

  1. Legacy Preservation

Preserving your digital legacy through a will enables you to designate trusted individuals, who can continue managing your social media accounts, websites, blogs, and other online platforms. The ongoing maintenance and curation of your digital persona guarantees that your brand and influence remains even after you are gone. This goes hand in hand with digital asset management, as providing clear instructions, access details, and authorization empowers designees to make decisions on behalf of your online presence, maintaining authenticity and consistency. 

Digital assets within a will allows you to define how you want your brand, content, and intellectual property to be preserved and utilized. It is important to note that intellectual property refers to both social media platforms and merchandise. Take for example Jeffree Star, a well-known beauty influencer who gained fame through his Youtube channel. In 2014, he launched Jeffree Star Cosmetics bringing in an estimated gross of $100 million annually. If Jeffree Star failed to include his cosmetic line in his will, this would lead to major disputes not only between family members, but also business partners in regard to the ownership of Jeffree Star Cosmetics. A decision so grave such as failing to write a will potentially harms the company’s operations, brand, and future business endeavors. 

  1. Privacy

If you're an influencer and pass away without a will, your estate could be subject to probate proceedings, which may compromise the privacy of your financial information. The probate process involves the court's supervision in determining the distribution of your assets and settling any outstanding debts or claims. Depending on the jurisdiction, the details of your estate, including your net worth and the beneficiaries of your assets, could become a public record.

This lack of privacy can have implications for both your family and your professional reputation. Potential heirs, creditors, and other interested parties may have access to information regarding the value and distribution of your estate. This further implies that creditors, upon discovering the value of your estate, may actively pursue claims against it in an effort to obtain payment. Additionally, since influencers often rely on their personal brand and image, the public disclosure of financial matters may impact your perceived success and potentially affect your followers' perception of your influence.

In the digital age, influencers have unique considerations when it comes to estate planning. By including digital assets, such as social media accounts and online properties, in a will, influencers can ensure proper management, preserve their legacy, and protect their privacy. The management of digital assets is essential for continuing their online brand, while legacy preservation allows influencers to leave a lasting impact beyond their lifetime. Moreover, addressing privacy concerns safeguards sensitive financial information from public disclosure. Overall, recognizing the value of digital assets and initiating a comprehensive estate plan can provide peace of mind for influencers, their families, and their professional reputations in the ever-evolving world of social media and digital influence. To ensure you have the best legal guidance on the ever-evolving nature of assets, it is crucial to speak with an attorney who is well-versed in this field. That's where Inna Fershteyn comes in. When you’re ready to secure your future, please contact the Law Office of Inna Fershteyn at (718) 333-2394.