In this day and age, in addition to having a “real life,” anyone who regularly takes advantage of the internet also has a separate but sometimes almost equally important digital community. For example, thanks to advances in electronic communication, technology access, network security and digital interfacing, we can:
- Communicate with friends and family via video chatting, VOIP telephone calls or email
- Maintain a website through which we can solicit business from customers anywhere in the world
- Enjoy multiplayer gaming experiences with old friends and new ones
- Use blogs and social media to stay connected and share our innermost thoughts with the world and to establish business relationships
- Conduct both personal and professional business by email or online (banking, bill paying, investing, etc.)
- Store countless digital photographs, songs, videos and documents
What happens to these digital assets when we’re gone?
Whether we realize it or not, our digital lives can be inherently valuable both for our families and for our businesses. From a personal perspective, it could provide great comfort to a grieving loved one to be able to review old emails or social media posts that expressed our innermost feelings. On the business side, having administrator access to the company website is an important part of maintaining a successful online presence, and customer account information is a key asset for both fulfillment and marketing.
Most of us realize the importance of estate planning when it comes to tangible assets, but might not understand that our electronic property also needs to be accounted for in a comprehensive estate plan. Unless provisions are laid out ahead of time, antiquated privacy and data management laws could make it very difficult to gain access to a deceased loved one’s digital footprint.
Your comprehensive plan needs to include, likely in an appendix or addendum, account and log-in information for online bank/retirement/investment accounts, digital property you have purchased (such as playlists of music or videos, and digital photographs or movies), email accounts, websites and blogs and social media.
It can seem overwhelming if you try to consider all the different aspects necessary for a comprehensive estate plan on your own. Don’t handle this vitally important matter by yourself; you will likely do much more harm than good. Instead, contact an experienced estate planning firm to do the “heavy lifting” for you.