So much of our lives now are online and much of our online life requires two things: a username and a password. These requirements are great for keeping someone out of your accounts, but what happens if you are incapacitated or no longer here? Who can access your accounts if needed? A recent article, “Digital Estate Planning Guide: Get Your Digital Assets in Order,” from Kiplinger, explains the steps needed to protect digital assets and let loved ones know your wishes.

Unlike boxes of photos left in attics, digital photos, social media accounts and cryptocurrency can’t be easily accessed and don’t physically disintegrate. With no plan in place, your estate is vulnerable to identity theft and lost assets, not to mention disputes between family members over digital assets.

Digital assets include email accounts, social media profiles, photographs and recordings, online banking and investment accounts, intellectual property, cryptocurrency, subscriptions, frequent flier miles and documents stored online.

The first step is the most tedious one. However, it is necessary. You’ll need to list all assets, their URL (address), login credentials and account numbers. If the account has two-factor protection, for example, when you must put in a code received on another device, include this information. If this sounds like too much work, consider your executor trying to locate every asset. It will take much more time, and some assets may be lost forever. Another option is to use a program called a password manager, which can securely maintain all your usernames and passwords while making your passwords more secure.

Next, you will need to review your estate plan to make sure your trusted agents (trustee, executor, or attorney in fact) have the power to access and manage your digital assets along with your digital devices. At Frankel, Rubin, Klein, Payne & Pudlowski, P.C., all of our estate plans include these powers in the Trust, Will, and Durable Power of Attorney. Additionally, we provide you with an area in your estate planning binder to track you passwords and communicate to your agents about your digital estate.

Here are some issues to consider when creating a digital estate plan:

  • What do you want to happen to each of your accounts—do you want them deleted, or do you want your executor to download and store the information on a local hard drive or other hardware?
  • How do you want your assets to be used? If cryptocurrency, do you want them to transfer the assets, or do you want to convert them to traditional money and then distribute them to heirs?
  • If you have sensitive information and wish to keep the asset private, can your digital executor do that, or do you need to delete or transfer the information long before you die?

Let loved ones know of the existence of your digital estate plan and review it often, since digital assets change much faster than traditional assets. Every jurisdiction has its own laws regarding digital assets, so speak with an experienced estate planning attorney, since your digital estate plan needs to comply with state laws and regulations. If you are ready to get started, book a call with out experienced attorneys in St. Louis, Missouri today.

Reference: Kiplinger (March 14, 2024) “Digital Estate Planning Guide: Get Your Digital Assets in Order”