Among the Oxford English Dictionary’s additions to the English language this year was the term “digital footprint,” which refers to the trail of information left by a person as a result of their online activity.
When it comes to estate planning, a person’s most important goal is typically to ensure that their cash, home, jewelry, and other worldly possessions go to their loved ones. However, a person’s digital assets can be just as important, and should be taken into consideration when drafting estate planning documents.
What is a Digital Asset?
While online bank accounts and stock-trading accounts are the first things that come to mind, there are other digital assets can be easily overlooked when calculating the value of your estate. For example, if you run a blog or a website, the domain name could be worth thousands of dollars. If you buy or sell items online, there could be a substantial balance in your eBay or PayPal account. Additionally, a library of digital music, movies, and TV shows can also have significant financial value.
The value of digital assets can also go far beyond their financial worth. Email and social media accounts may contain photos, videos, and files that are important to you and your loved ones. Thus, it is crucial to plan for your digital afterlife, because the terms of service with each online provider pose significant obstacles for family members that will seek to access your accounts. Additionally, online accounts left unattended leave open the possibility of identity theft or fraud.
Take Steps Now to Protect Your Digital Assets
Like your other assets, it’s critical that someone knows they exist. The first step is to make a list of all of your digital assets, which includes your usernames and passwords. To ensure privacy, this list can be filed with your attorney for safekeeping to be opened only upon death or incapacity. Second, when drafting your estate planning documents be sure to tell your loved ones what you want done with your digital assets and who has control. For example, Facebook profile pages are increasingly being used as platforms for friends, family, and co-workers to post comments commemorating a person’s life. If you want your Facebook profile to be deactivated upon your death, say so.
Finally, since digital assets are constantly changing, be sure to regularly update your information. The online accounts that you have today may very well be obsolete in the near future.
At Boyd Law, our San Diego trust and estate planning attorneys not only have significant experience and expertise, we maintain a firm grasp on today’s ever-evolving digital world that will ensure all of your assets will be protected for future generations.