By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

What happens to your digital assets after your death?  Who takes care of your social media accounts, email, and online savings and checking accounts? What happens to those accounts when you die? Do they continue on inevitably, or can they be closed?

Though a large amount of estate planning still takes place with paper documents, digital assets are extremely common and must be addressed as well. Digital estate plans help determine if your digital assets have any monetary value and helps your loved ones know what you have and where.

(1) Inventory

To make a plan, you have to know what you have.  Compile a list of all the online assets you have and their usernames and passwords, including but not limited to:

  • Social media accounts
  • email accounts
  • websites
  • online insurance, bank, and credit card accounts
  • online bill pay
  • media files
  • online payment tools (Google Wallet, PayPal, etc.)

(2) Proper Storage of Your Inventory

Your inventory will have a lot of important, personal information.  You need to make sure you protect it. You can store the inventory in a safety deposit box at a bank, with an attorney, or in a safe. You may also consider online applications that were created solely for digital asset planning purposes, such as PasswordBox or SecureSafe.

(3) Name an Executor

Much like traditional estate planning, you will need to choose someone to manage your online accounts and assets. Make sure you choice is trustworthy, technologically savvy, and responsible. Give your Digital Executor information on where to find your inventory.

(4) Write Your Plan

What do you want your Executor to do with your digital assets? As with any estate plan, make sure your instructions are clear, to avoid confusion. Add a list of instructions for each digital asset you own.

(5) Pay Attention to Terms and Conditions

Review the terms and conditions for the places that hold your digital assets.  Each site may have different rules and procedures for handling assets of members after death. For instance, Facebook will allow you to close or “memorialize” an account.  Google has an “Inactive Account Manager” that allows users to decide what they want to happen to their accounts when they have been inactive for a predetermined amount of time. And Twitter requires more paperwork and redtape for families to access their loved ones’ accounts.

As our world becomes more and more digital, digital estate planning will continue to grow.  As you join new sites and amass more digital assets, be sure to update your plan so you don’t get so far behind you can’t catch up.