Everything you need to know about digital estate planning

People often focus on their finances and physical property when planning for asset management after their passing, but it’s also important to make a digital estate plan since more and more of our personal information is stored online these days.

Social media accounts, email accounts, subscription services, images or videos stored online, blogs, and online currency are all included in this list of assets. Often, the terms of service and user agreements that we scroll through when signing up for an account state that the company will terminate the account after someone passes away instead of waiting for requests for content from their next-of-kin.

Most states have some type of legislation in place regarding how to handle one’s digital assets. Often, traditional executors or will representatives have access to some digital information, but this access is often limited and they may only be able to access information related to files needed for managing the physical estate.

Here are some steps to take to plan for the transfer of your digital assets and avoid having your online data deleted:

  • Appoint a digital executor: In many states your will executor won’t automatically gain access to your online information. You’ll need to assign someone to handle your digital assets and provide them with the information and materials to do so. People often use the same executor as their will to manage their digital estate, but you can also choose a different person if you wish.
  • Create a digital assets inventory: Take an inventory of all the accounts you have that store your digital information and have all of your logins and passwords in one place. There are programs you can use to store this information securely such as LastPass, 1Password or Bitwarden. You can also just create a spreadsheet, although this might be more time-consuming and not as secure. Make sure to keep this list up to date by adding new or removing unused assets as well as updating passwords whenever they change.
  • Make a plan of action: Next, create a plan of action. Take the time to determine what you want your executor to do with your digital data. Be sure to outline which accounts you want to have deleted, archived, or transferred to your heirs and what digital assets need anything else to be done with them.
  • Secure your data: Finally, store your digital estate plan in a secure location as it contains information on accessing your data. Do not include this plan in your will since others can gain access to this document after you pass. You may opt to give your digital estate plan to your attorney, use a secure digital storage service that your executor has access to, or lock it in a safe. Just make sure your digital executor knows where it is and is able to access it when needed.

We live in a world where our digital assets are becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. When planning for physical assets, it is essential to also create a digital estate plan and give loved ones the information needed to handle these assets according to our wishes after we pass away.

For assistance with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.