Estate Planning For Your Digital Legacy
When people make an estate plan, they consider such things as their artwork, real property, car, and other tangible personal items. We focus much of our time contemplating our material legacy but forget our digital legacy. Your digital legacy is a combination of things like your blogs, social media accounts, digital files, and other electronic accounts that you use on a daily basis.
Before we tell you how you can strategize your estate plan to accommodate your digital legacy, you should first be reminded of the many online and digital platforms you frequently use. Here is a short list of what you probably used today: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a domain you own, a blog, your account in a forum, licensed music, photos, and your seller’s account on Amazon/ebay. In this list, we should also mention the accounts you have for your utilities and financial institutions.
Your social media and email accounts do not technically belong to you. You simply hold a license to use said accounts. Upon your death, the license expires and is terminated. Many social media companies operate by way of bylaws, which dictate the terms of you can and cannot do with the accounts after your passing. With a social media channel as Facebook for example, the administrator or executor of your estate can place your FB account into “memorial” status after your passing. Other organizations simply delete or deactivate your license.
For the various accounts and digital assets you may own such as domains and blogs which are not terminated upon your death, it would be wise to write down the passwords somewhere so your executor can find them easily. When creating your last will and testament, it is advisable to include instructions in your will as to what should happen with these assets. If you are running a successful political blog which provides passive income, make note of who should inherit the blog or whether it should be sold by the executor. If you manage your company website, provide a directive as to whom should take over operating the site.
The preliminary step to any estate plan is writing down everything you own. During this step, be sure to record the digital assets in your life. It would be helpful for your executor to know where your photos are located in your computer as well. Remember, the main purpose of having an executor is so they can oversee the transfer of your assets to your loved ones. The easier you make their job, the faster your heirs and beneficiaries will receive your legacies.
Forgetting to include your digital legacy in your estate plan is something many clients tend to do. The truth is platforms like Facebook and Instagram have become the new photo albums of our era. It would be a shame to not account for these important platforms when discussing your future with your estate planning lawyer. Be mindful to account for all your assets, not just the tangibles. Contact a NY estate lawyer today for an in-depth discussion on how to prepare your estate plan.