The prior two blogs detailed the potential problems and concerns of ignoring your digital assets.
This blog provides you bullet list of points on how to prepare now for the disposition of your digital assets.
1. Create an inventory. It is in your heir’s best interest for you to create inventories of your electronic data with log-on IDs and your passwords. You need to keep the information somewhere safe, keep it current and secure. Update the information regularly. The items to include in the inventory are as follows:
- Computing hardware, such as computers, external hard drives or flash drives, tablets, smartphones, digital music players, e-readers, digital cameras, and other digital devices
- Any information or data that is stored electronically, whether stored online, in the cloud, or on a physical device
- Any online accounts, such as email and communications accounts, social media accounts, shopping accounts, photo and video sharing accounts, video gaming accounts, online storage accounts, and websites and blogs that you may manage
- Domain names
- Intellectual property, including copyrighted materials, trademarks, and any code you may have written and own
2. Use a password manager, such as LastPass, 1password or Dashlane. And share that information with your executor. Do not put log-in information or passwords in your will. If you have the one password, that allows the executor to see all the sites that you log into on a regular basis. It will be like having a digital net worth statement.
3. Consider an online vault, such as box.com, Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Microsoft One Drive, Dropbox, Everplans. or ShareFile. Box.com is very collaborative and the best overall security. Dropbox is the easiest to use and is cross software compatible. If you passed away, the executor who had the power of attorney would have all the digital estate planning documents, insurance planning documents, tax returns, etc., so he / she could piece together the information needed to start the disposition of the estate. Between the online vault and LastPass, if they have the correct password, the executor will be able to do their job easily. You can also store this information securely with your attorney or in a locked file cabinet or safe.
4. Write your digital-asset plan into your estate documents. You must be very clear about it, do not rely solely on the generic powers of an executor or a general definition of assets to assume the powers will include your digital assets. The more specific you are about your intent and that you want your executor to have access, the better. In wills and other estate documents it is helpful to add language to make it clear that the executor should have the same access as the account holder had during his/her lifetime for all digital accounts, specifically including access to content. Or some other broad way of saying that you want your executor to step into your shoes. A new name for your executor may be your Digital Executor.
5. Consider writing both a broad statement of intent for digital assets as well as specific directions for each account. You should create a memorandum addressed to one’s executor and heirs indicating the intentions regarding specific digital accounts. To avoid the problem of forgetting to include an account, you need two statements. “Due to the dynamic nature of technology and the fact that an average American could have hundreds of accounts, I also recommend a general statement of intention to encompass all other accounts — past, present, and future — belonging to the decedent.”
6. Think carefully and be specific about what you want your executor to have access to. For example, will you allow your executor to read all your email messages? If not, you should be clear about granting such power. When an executor is granted the power to access a decedent’s online accounts, the executor’s authority might ought to be limited and specific in nature. This way they are not allowed an extensive and invasive search of the decedent’s online records.
7. Pick your Digital Executor carefully. Consider what information they will have access to in your online accounts. And this person needs to have some tech savvy skills to work with the accounts. It is so very important nowadays to think about who that person is, because they’re going to have access to some very personal information. Plus, they will need to have the know-how to work through the maze of accounts, logons, and passwords. Otherwise they are not going to deal with it.
The task of dealing with your digital assets will be challenging. To help motivate you, think about the mess you may leave behind for your loved ones when you are gone.
There is much more that we have not touched on. For instance, the gamers out there, we know there is much value in certain characters you have developed online as well. An asset of value should be cared for.
This concludes my three-part blog series. If you feel we have missed a certain segment or an important point, we gladly accept any additional thoughts or criticism. We can always blog more.
Corey N. Callaway
Investment Advisor Representative