Creating a digital estate plan is more important than ever in our modern era. In our lifetime, we have accumulated numerous accounts, digital assets, and a massive digital footprint that should be settled like any other parts of our lives. Creating a digital estate plan may seem like a big and daunting task but the whole process can be broken down into five simple steps. While the process is still quite involved, these steps will help you stay organzied and take on this project one task at a time.
1. List Of All Your Digital Assets And How To Access Each One
Gather every online account you own including, online banking accounts, social media accounts, accounts for your utilities, credit card accounts, any accounts you make payments on or loan accounts, and just about any online account you can think of. This will ensure there is no stone left unturned when your estate is being settled by your executor and it will make settling your estate much easier. This also includes listing all the hardware you own and how to access them, such as, computers, tablets, phones, e-readers, cameras, and other digital devices. Other accounts you don’t want to forget about are digital clouds, email, gaming accounts, websites, domains, blogs, and intellectual properties.
2. Decide What You Want Done With These Assets
With so many accounts and pieces of hardware to inventory, a spreadsheet may be your best option for staying organized. When you decide how you want each of the accounts settled, you can leave detailed instructions for accessing the account and the actions that need to occur to settle the account. You may need to conduct some research on if and how you can pass on certain accounts or assets to your executors. Additionally, you may need to do some research on how an executor would be able to close your account, as all companies have their own terms of service.
If your assets have some sort of value to them, you will want to make note of that and ensure your executor will be able to redeem the valuable assets or inherit them. If assets will continue to generate revenue, it's worth thinking about where that money is going, and who will be able to access it after you're gone. Like in the case of cryptocurrency, you will want to make sure that your executor has everything they need to access your account or your currency could be forever lost.
3. Name Digital Executor or Executors
Who do you trust to carry out your wishes when it comes to your digital assets? A Digital Executor is someone you designate to help settle your digital estate. We recommend selecting an individual or individuals who are technologically savvy and understand the assets they will be handling. In most states, a Digital Executor is not a legally binding or enforceable designation at the moment. Even so, you should still name a Digital Executor, as this person can be designated by your Executor to follow the wishes laid out in your digital estate plan, or can at least help your Executor with the digital aspects of your estate.
4. Store This Information In A Secure But, Accessible Location
There are three main ways you can securely store this kind of sensitive information.
1. With an attorney.
2. With an online storage service like myJeenie.
3. In a locked file cabinet or safe.
Regardless of how you want to store this information, you should inform your digital executor and other important people in your life about where they can go to access this information. This means giving the person you trust the name of your attorney, the name of the online storage company you've used, or the location of keys or the combination to your safe.This way, when the time comes, the information is easily accessible and settling your estate will be easy for your executor.
5. If Possible, Make It Legal
Depending on where you live, you may be able to formalize your digital estate plan in a legally binding document, such as your Will. The easiest way to do this is to name a Digital Executor in your Will and then, specify the location of your digital asset inventory, so that when the time comes your Digital Executor can find and access your plan.
Do not include your passwords or other digital asset access information in your Will. When you die, your Will becomes a public document, which means that anyone can read it—including any sensitive information it may contain. Instead in your Will refer to an outside document that contains all the necessary information needed to settle your digital estate. This will also make things easier for both you and your executor because you can continue to add to, revise, and update the document without either having to formally change your will or putting your digital assets at risk.