I’m sure you’ve seen a movie or TV show where one character says to another character, “You’re in charge of destroying my computer or deleting my search history if anything happens.” Maybe you’ve even said something like that to a close friend or family member.
However, have you ever actually considered what would happen to the content on your computer or phone if something ever did happen?
It’s not just 007 who needs to worry about his digital footprint. Even those of us who live pretty normal lives and—ahem—don’t drive an Aston Martin lead lives that are increasingly online. Our financial accounts are online. We connect with loved ones online. Every one of us has a backlog of emails and photos and documents stored on hard drives and/or in the cloud.
These are all things that should be considered when making a plan for what will happen to you if you become incapacitated or die. Before we talk about some best practices for delegating access to your digital assets, let’s define what digital assets actually are:
Digital Assets: assets or files that are provided or used in a digital format.
As far as your estate or legacy plan goes, they have a lot in common with your other tangible assets, but they aren’t things that you can physically touch. Common types of digital assets include:
- CryptoCurrency (such as Bitcoin)
- Funds in online accounts (ie. PayPal)
- Funds owed to you by an account (ie. Amazon, Etsy, or eBay)
- Transferable assets (ie. frequent flyer miles or rewards points) as dictated by the service provider’s agreement
- Copyrights and licenses as allowed in transfer agreements
- Content of, and access to, online media accounts (ie. a blog, social media, YouTube, email)
It can be a little overwhelming, once you really start thinking about it, right? Unfortunately, there’s no federal law about how these assets get treated in an estate, but look up your state’s law (or proposed law) here. Regardless of where your state stands on the handling of digital assets in estate law, you can and should have a solid plan in place. Here’s how:
Steps to Incorporating Digital Assets in Your Legacy Plan
1. Make a List of Your Digital Assets
Go through that list again. Write down or type up all the digital stuff you have that falls under each category.
2. Organize Your Digital Assets and Access Info
Start jotting down the URLs and passwords you use to access all of those accounts and assets. Take some time to delete obsolete accounts and consolidate and organize files, if needed.
3. Account for Digital Assets in Your Legacy Plan
If you have a legacy plan, have you considered your digital assets in it, or provided this access information? If not, this is a good time to add it! Some platforms (like Facebook) allow you to designate a legacy contact, and it’s easy to do within the platform itself. From there, determine who you want to transfer each asset to, who you want to have access, and/or who should have rights to content. You can even appoint a digital executor to act in tandem with your overall executor to help manage your online presence.
4. Share the Information
Be sure to consult with your attorney and/or legacy planner to make sure these assets are accounted for in the best way. If you have sizable digital assets (i.e. you’re a YouTube sensation or have millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin), you may want to consider working with a digital asset estate planner.
We Can Help!
At Gift Planning Services, we work with donors to help them organize their important documents (digital ones, too!) and create a legacy plan that reflects their values and maximizes what they’re able to give to their heirs and organizations they love. Through our Legacy Gift Planning Program, you’ll receive step-by-step guidance as you consider the legacy you’d like to leave, and put plans in place to make it happen.
About the Author: Katelyn is a graduate of Bethel University, with dual degrees in entrepreneurship and strategic communication. She also runs a blog and travels extensively, having spent two semesters abroad in college, visiting a total of 28 countries. Katelyn brings a contagious excitement for life, along with a lot of focus, attention to detail, and big ideas for where the company can go next. When Katelyn isn’t working, you’ll probably find her on a ski hill somewhere, hanging out with friends or her dog Finn, or drafting her next blog post.