Digital assets are everywhere—from the photos stored on your phone to the movies streamed on your television. But, what is a digital asset, and why is it a crucial step in the preplanning process?
To put it simply, a digital asset is content that’s stored digitally. This includes photos and videos, as well as other important documents your loved ones will need access to if a death occurs. Think financial statements, for example. If no one is designated to monitor your online accounts, you may be susceptible to identify theft.
As technology advances, planning for digital assets is becoming increasingly important for aging adults. Continue reading for tips on managing and organizing your online digital affairs when a death is near.
1. Identify Your Digital Assets
To get your online affairs in order, it’s important to consider the different types of digital assets you own, including social profiles and financial accounts.
Examples of personal digital assets that may contain confidential information include:
- Cloud computing accounts, such as Amazon, Google Apps and iCloud.
- Online photo or video storage.
- Personal website.
- Streaming services, such as Hulu or Netflix.
Examples of financial digital assets include:
- Bank accounts.
- Apple Pay, Google Wallet or PayPal.
Examples of social media assets include:
These are just some examples of the types of digital assets you may have. Look through each account to identify any subscriptions or services you may be paying for, and think about platforms you log into on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
2. Understand Platform Policies
Some platforms offer clear action plans after an individual passes, so make sure you and your family understand the policies for each.
Facebook, for example, encourages users to plan ahead for their own death by appointing an individual responsible for handling their account. Users can have their account permanently deleted or deactivated when they pass, or they can select a legacy contact to look after their memorialized account. A memorialized account offers a shared place for surviving family members and friends to remember those who’ve passed away.
Twitter, on the other hand, works with an authorized or verified family member to deactivate the account.
Be sure to check with each platform’s guidelines and policies to ensure your wishes for each account can legally be granted. Some may not allow access to a loved one without set permission from you.
3. Familiarize Yourself with State Laws
When it comes to managing online digital assets, many states turn to platform policies regarding the deceased individual’s accounts first. If a policy plan is not in place, refer to your state’s digital inheritance law for asset management.
In 2014, Ohio adopted the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. This act allows individuals to grant others the authority to access their digital assets and electronic communications. The appointed fiduciary is responsible for acting in the best interest of the deceased.
Since laws vary by state regarding digital assets, consider consulting an estate attorney to determine the best option for your digital inheritance.
4. Organize and Protect Your Digital Information
To keep everything organized, take inventory of all your digital accounts. Compile your usernames and passwords into one secure location.
Avoid using shared platforms that can be easily accessed by others, such as Google Docs. Instead, consider using software like LastPass or Legacy Locker, which offer encrypted file storage to protect sensitive information from being viewed by people who shouldn’t have access to it.
5. Leave Instructions
By completing the above steps, your digital heir will have access to your logins and passwords. However, he or she may not know what to do with this access. If you have specific wishes for your digital assets, leave instructions for handling each.
This will ensure your online accounts and profiles are properly taken care of by the person you deem responsible. Not to mention, you can rest assured knowing this is one less thing your family will have to worry about after you pass.
Additional Preplanning Considerations
Your digital inheritance is just one part of the preplanning process. While preplanning final arrangements may seem overwhelming, it protects your loved ones from sudden financial burdens and stressful decisions after you pass. To learn more about the benefits of preplanning, download the Seniors’ Guide to Funeral Arrangements.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2017, and has been updated to be more current and comprehensive.