The Internet and social media hold your essential documents and information, digital property, and cherished memories. If you keep important documents and memories on the “cloud” or on Internet platforms, these items could be lost if they are not accounted for in your estate plan. Some websites will delete your account after a certain length of inactivity, leaving friends and family unable to access and retrieve digital data. It’s time to consider the significance of digital estate planning and ensure that your online presence is preserved for your loved ones.
It is important to note that digital assets do not include the actual liquid funds or cryptocurrency behind the digital accounts – these are part of your general estate and are subject to different laws. Additionally, some items in your digital estate are subject to licenses, which expire upon the holder’s passing. The company may retake control of these accounts, often resulting in the deletion of their contents. You may be able to transfer the license to someone else or otherwise arrange to keep the license active.
Your digital presence can include photo and video memories stored on a cloud service, important communication in e-mail accounts, financial information, and certain types of digital property. Whether you’re a digital artist, small business owner, content creator, or a casual Internet user, think about the following examples:
If you want to preserve anything from these examples, it is important to have a digital estate plan. There are steps you can take to organize, prepare, and manage your digital estate:
First, it is important to identify and gather log-in information for each of your accounts. This includes usernames, emails, passwords, answers to common security questions, and two-factor authentication designation. It is best to save this information to a central location such as a secure cloud service, a digital “keychain,” or some other password application.
You can choose to have everything go to one person, split up the assets into categories, and prohibit certain people from accessing specific data. With each asset, you can choose if you want it terminated or left open. For instance, you may wish to terminate and archive a personal blog, or your family may want to keep an established eBay store running, and you may want to keep a Facebook account open for friends to view and share memories.
Legacy contacts: Many social media platforms have the option to designate a legacy contact. This is typically a family member or close friend who is given access to your account and can preserve its contents (photos, videos, posts, etc.) or delete/terminate your account. These legacy contacts can be set up at any time, but it is important to take note of which contact is assigned to which platform. Selecting one general legacy contact to handle your social media accounts might be easiest.
Digital executor: This is a person you choose and list in your Will to handle your digital accounts and handle and distribute them according to your wishes. This may be your general executor, or if you have significant digital assets, it might be worth appointing a special executor with the experience to handle these matters. This special executor would work alongside the executor of your general estate. Because fraud and identity theft are so prevalent, ensuring your estate plan provides clear authority and as much information as possible is crucial to ensure your digital data can be accessed and preserved.
Digital assets are a relatively new area of estate planning, and laws are rapidly changing. Given the evolving nature, working with an experienced estate planning attorney is essential to navigate changing requirements. Some states may not recognize digital estate plans, while others follow a uniform process. Collaborate with an attorney to ensure your plan complies with state-specific requirements and is accurately outlined in your Will.
To safeguard your digital legacy and ensure a seamless transition for your loved ones, consult an estate planning attorney who can guide you through the intricacies of digital estate planning. The attorneys at Johnston Tomei Lenczycki & Goldberg LLC can help you manage your digital estate and work with you to ensure your digital assets and memories are preserved for generations to come. Call today to speak with one of our estate planning attorneys at (847) 549-0600 for a consultation.
Phone Number: (847) 549-0600
Fax Number: (847) 589-2263
350 N. Milwaukee Ave., Ste. 202
Libertyville, IL 60048
2100 Manchester Road, Suite 920
Wheaton, IL 60187