What Happens to Your Digital Assets when You Die?

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POSTED ON: February 19, 2024

WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS WHEN YOU DIE? If you have a will and trust prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney, you have started the estate planning process. If your estate plan includes a plan for your digital assets, give yourself extra points—because most people don’t, especially seniors.

While many millennials have appointed a digital executor in their estate plans, according to an article from Consumer Affairs, “Your digital legacy could be exposed after you die,” almost 90% of people 65+ are unaware that they need to address their digital legacy.

If you don’t have a documented digital estate plan, your executor and heirs will face many online problems, including identity theft. Someone needs to be named as your digital executor, with clear directions on what you want to happen to your digital assets in case of incapacity or death.

That means they’ll need to be named as a legacy contact on platforms with this feature, added to accounts as contacts, or have access to your login and password information. In some cases, they’ll also need to be able to access your email accounts and/or your cell phone for those digital assets having two-factor identification.

If your login takes place using facial recognition, this is especially important to take care of while you are alive and well. It could lead to months of delays for your executor and heirs.

If digital accounts are left untended, it’s possible the information could be hacked. On some platforms, inactivity leads to accounts being shut down and, in some instances, data being deleted permanently.

If there are disagreements over your digital assets, the problems can be just as bad as disagreements over traditional assets. A digital estate plan can prevent confusion and ensure that sensitive information remains in the hands of the person you’ve chosen to manage digital assets.

You can leave your digital legacy to fate and hope someone will take on this task. However, then you risk accounts and assets going missing. Unlike traditional assets, where monitoring the mail will eventually bring a statement, digital assets are nearly impossible to identify unless someone besides you knows they exist.

An inventory needs to be taken. While this may seem onerous, imagine trying to do it for someone whose assets, passwords, etc., are a complete mystery. Even something as simple as paying a utility bill can become a challenge without having login access.

Document login credentials, passwords and security credentials for each asset. Some people use password managers, while others are more comfortable with spreadsheets. Just be sure to protect the information so it can’t be easily obtained.

Appoint a digital executor in your will. This should be someone you trust with these assets and who can navigate the online world.

Don’t include the passwords, logins, etc., in your will, as your will becomes part of the public record when your estate goes through probate. Talk with your estate planning attorney about how your state addresses digital assets.

Schedule your phone appointment: THE LAW OFFICES OF CLAUDE S. SMITH, III


Reference: Consumer Affairs (Dec. 18, 2024) “Your digital legacy could be exposed after you die”

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