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In today’s digital era, we spend increasing amounts of our lives online. Over the course of a lifetime we will generate and accumulate a massive amount of data. Accordingly, we should all consider what will happen to our digital and online life when our actual life comes to an end.

Digital asset estate planning is a relatively new field that allows you to manage your digital assets and create a plan for what will happen to them after you pass. Estate planning attorney Natalia Vander Laan can include in your estate plan provisions that will safeguard and protect your digital assets and manage who can access them after you pass.

What Is Estate Planning for Digital Assets?

Digital assets estate planning is the process of creating a plan which includes what will happen to your digital assets when you are gone.

Your digital assets include anything created and stored on a device like a computer and smartphone and items stored in the cloud or online. Digital assets include sentimental and personal items, as well as financial or business assets that are stored electronically.

Most digital assets are password protected, and you must account for this in your estate plan.

How to Begin Estate Planning for Digital Assets

To create an estate plan that addresses your digital assets, begin by taking inventory of your digital assets. Then decide what you want done with them, who will have access, and how they will gain access.

Your digital assets may include:

  • Email accounts
  • Social media profiles
  • Online financial accounts
  • Online subscription-based accounts
  • E-commerce accounts
  • Digital photos stored on a computer, online, or in the cloud
  • Music collections
  • Cryptocurrency holdings
  • Chatroom accounts
  • Cell phone apps
  • Online accounts for utilities
  • Loyalty program benefits
  • Airline miles
  • Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
  • Domain names
  • Websites
  • Blog content
  • Online gaming avatars
  • Monetized video channels that create a revenue stream

Once you have identified your digital assets, you must decide who will have access to them and how they will be managed and distributed. Some information will be saved, while you may wish to have some information destroyed.

If you have digital assets that generate revenue, will they be shared with a business partner? Will a friend or family member continue to operate the e-commerce business? Or will it be shut down?

Regarding social media accounts, consider who you want to access your account information and what you would like them to do with your account. Do you want your representative to notify friends and associates of your passing? Will your profile be taken down? Or will it be turned into an online memorial for friends to share thoughts, memories, and condolences?

Ensure Your Digital Asset Estate Plan Matches Your Traditional Estate Plan

Estate planning for digital assets is relatively new. To ensure your wishes are carried out, it is wise to make note of your digital estate plan in your other estate planning documents. Many people choose to have the person in charge of administering their traditional estate plan handle their digital assets, as well.

You must also ensure your digital estate plan is legally binding. You can do this by including it as a provision in your Will. However, you should keep your digital estate plan separate from your traditional Will for two reasons. First, your Will becomes public after you die, and you could inadvertently give strangers access to usernames and passwords. Second, you will need to update your digital estate plan when you change passwords and create and delete online accounts, and you don’t want to have to update your Will every time you change a password or create a new online account.

Consider keeping an inventory of your digital assets and ensure your personal representative or trustee can access them after your passing. If you use an online password manager, be sure your personal representative or trustee knows or will have access to your master password. Some representatives may prefer a physical list. Whatever method you choose, ensure the passwords are up to date and that your representative will be able to access them when the time comes.

Be sure to update your digital asset estate plan whenever you make changes to your digital assets. You may also consider adding “legacy” contacts to your major digital accounts, like iCloud, Google Cloud, or Office365 (each platform has a different process, which can be accessed through your account).

The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

In 2017, Nevada adopted provisions of the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which addresses digital assets stored online, on a device or computer, in the cloud, or in email accounts. The Act allows your personal representative to access and use your digital assets after your death or when you become incapacitated. Prior to the passage of this law, online service providers were not legally required to follow a person’s directives regarding their digital assets.

Contact the Vander Laan Law Firm, LLC, for Help with Digital Assets Estate Planning

If you have questions or need help creating a digital asset management plan, Nevada estate planning attorney Natalia Vander Laan can help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your estate planning needs.

Categories: Estate Planning