Picture the V.I.P. pass: Mr. Peabody – The Afterlife Tour – ALL ACCESS.
When the music finally stops, will family and friends cheer or boo at the estate plans you have or haven’t left in place? In today’s digital world, people increasingly live their lives online. The fact that so many of our valuables are now also online means we need to provide access to digital as well as traditional assets after we’re gone.
When it comes to digital estate planning, there’s more at stake than just your collection of “Dead” downloads. Digital assets cover a pretty wide spectrum, encompassing all of the valuable information on digital devices like computers and smart phones. That includes online photos, credit card reward points, email and social media accounts, financial assets, brokerage accounts and even cryptocurrency.
Digital assets have a real monetary value – one survey estimates the average person has over $35,000 in value on their digital devices. But even if you’re not rolling in bitcoin, many of these items have huge sentimental value. Family photos, videos and personal letters are irreplaceable memories that your kids will want to access (along with those photos on your Facebook feed). So how do you pass them along?
Passing on what you can’t see
Digital assets present a unique set of challenges that traditional estate planning just doesn’t cover. First, it can be difficult to track everything down online; unlike traditional valuables, you can’t just go through a desk drawer or visit a bank branch to find them. Plus, most digital assets are password-protected, so if you don’t have the password, you’re out of luck.
If you handle all your bills online, when you die, will your spouse know how to access the accounts to keep balances up to date? Without access to these, bills may go unpaid and services like gas and electric can be suspended. There could also be other assets left hanging. Can your spouse log in to close down sites that have personal information, like bank account and credit card numbers? Dormant accounts are a natural target for hackers, putting you and your family at risk for identity theft and credit card fraud.
Digital assets have unique challenges and restrictions
It can be challenging to know what and how to include digital assets in a will, particularly since sensitive information like usernames and passwords could become public during probate. There are also complex questions of ownership surrounding these assets. For instance, according to most of those Terms of Service Agreements you signed by clicking “I Agree” without actually reading them (because who does?), online accounts are non-transferable, leaving your assets in permanent limbo.
Even if you have an existing estate plan, it’s bound to need updating to account for digital assets if it’s more than a few years old. That’s where we come in. Our no-homework approach makes it simple to create a plan that includes and protects your digital as well as traditional assets (although we can’t help you with those unflattering tagged photos on Facebook). Talk to us by phone or in person, and we’ll craft a solid, legally binding estate plan – no advance paperwork needed.