Article by Nancy O’Neal, CFP®, CFIRS™ – Senior Vice President & Chief Compliance Officer

Video featuring Jill Dobbs, CFP® – Vice President & Wealth Management Advisor

You have been very diligent about ensuring that you have your estate plan in order. All of your assets are titled appropriately, you have executed the necessary legal documents and your heirs are aware of your wishes concerning family heirlooms and other valuable personal property. But what about your digital assets?

In today’s digital world, almost everyone has online accounts and uses electronic devices to create and store documents, photos, music, etc. Have you thought about what will happen to these assets if you become incapacitated or when you pass away? If you haven’t taken the necessary steps to ensure that someone knows what digital assets you own and has the legal right to access them, those irreplaceable family photos and important documents could be lost forever.

Start by making a list of your digital assets.

First, list devices that can store data electronically such as your computer, smartphone or tablet. Online accounts such as email, social media accounts, financial accounts, online retailers and virtual currency accounts should also be itemized. Do you own any domain names, copyrighted materials or trademarks? These should be included as well.

Provide the access information for each asset; web address, account number, user name, password and two-factor authentication, if appropriate. Decide how you want each asset to be handled at your incapacity or death. Do you want the account deleted? Should your photos be transferred to your heirs? The list should include your wishes regarding the disposition of each asset. Be sure to update this list regularly.

It can be beneficial to designate a Digital Executor to carry out your wishes as detailed on your digital assets inventory. While this is not a legally binding designation, choosing a trusted person who has the technical ability to handle the task can be beneficial. This can be a different person than the one you have named to settle your other affairs.

The average digital user is managing 70-80 passwords.

Consider using a Password Manager program such as Keeper, LastPass or Dashlane to store and manage your passwords. This will be beneficial to you now and provides an easy way for your Digital Executor to access all of the necessary information in one place. You only need to provide him/her access information to one site.

The most important part of this process is having the proper legal consents in place. Just having the information about how to access your digital assets is not sufficient. Federal and state laws that are in place to protect your privacy and prevent hacking can also prevent access to your digital assets by unauthorized parties. Some websites have an online tool designed specifically to permit you to give someone access to your account or to give the provider direction to delete the account. You can also have your attorney include directions regarding the disposition of your digital assets that are legally enforceable in your state in a power of attorney, will or trust agreement. If no direction is provided, the terms of service that you agreed to when you set up the account will determine if anyone has access to it. These are usually designed to protect the provider and can make it difficult to obtain access after your death or incapacity.

We can help you get started.

Contact a member of your Central Trust team for a complimentary Digital Asset Inventory form today or use the button below to download the PDF version.