The transition from a paper society to digital has been gradual. Most people were slow to hop onto Facebook and other social media, figuring it was a fleeting invention where something new would come along and replace it. Then the kids started using it to share pictures of the grandchildren, and instant messaging offered easier communication with distant family.
In many parts of life, digital items have replaced physical products. Most estate plans, however, only discuss three-dimensional physical property. As you plan ahead, what happens to all of your digital assets?
So many online accounts
The average internet user has 26 accounts and 10 different passwords. This likely includes email, social media, banking, photo storage and other digital assets. Many people use a third party service just to manage their own accounts and passwords. Sharing that information with the next generation is a real challenge that requires forethought and organization. To complicate matters, select services do not allow users to “own” the material—meaning it can’t be inherited after you pass away.
Here are some tips for organizing your online accounts to help those you love:
- Create a list of accounts and memberships
- Review user agreements to determine ownership and personal rights
- When offered, with Google or Facebook for example, establish a “legacy contact”
- Notify others of your passwords, or use a password management service that others can access
- Detail how you want your online accounts to be handled upon death
There are different ways that people treat their online accounts. Some are left online as a memorial, while others wish to have them immediately removed and deleted. This doesn’t just refer to online subscriptions, social media or email, but also to cloud storage of files—like your family photos.
Simplify by planning ahead
As digital accounts gain more prominence in daily life, it’s important to state your wishes and define a succession plan. You can include digital property in many wills and estates, but because of privacy issues and the complex nature of third party user agreements, it’s recommended that you discuss this in person with an experienced attorney.
There are many different estate plans available: one for every need as you plan ahead for future generations. As you look to share property with and settle your affairs, it’s important that you don’t overlook your digital accounts.