March 13, 2024

​5 steps to creating a simple digital estate plan

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Many of us now live substantial portions of our lives in the digital realm, relying on social media, blogs, apps, emails, and digital currencies. As technology advances, estates increasingly include digital assets. Corporate environmental responsibility, reducing paper usage, poses challenges in accessing loved ones' assets.

There are several ways to track and manage your digital assets and plan, including:

• using a service that saves all of your passwords in one place so that an Executor can gain access, like Auderli our partner in secure digital storage;

• systems that will send messages to loved ones after passing away; and

• policies in place to access, shut down, or memorialise social media accounts after the account owner passes away.

It all comes down to making sure your digital assets are taken care of in addition to your non-digital assets.

Step 1. Start with a list

While some online activities are more significant than others when it comes to digital assets, it is useful to create an inventory of all important accounts, including usernames, passwords, subscription status, fees, and anything else that would be useful to know.

There are three main categories that digital assets fall into:

Digital records

This is anything held on a computer e.g. text, images, video, music, etc. Generally, these have high sentimental value but do not necessarily have any monetary value. Therefore, they do not usually form part of an estate, but should still be included if you want your loved ones to have access after your death.

Digital property rights

These are either intellectual property rights, such as copyrights, trademarks, or patents, or contractual rights like online storage or emails. These may be difficult to value, but the Executor or Administrator should include them when calculating the total estate.

Digital property interests

Cryptocurrency and other virtual currency must be considered and included in an estate plan. The private key that is needed to access these assets should be given to the person dealing with the estate so that they can ensure they’re transferred to the beneficiaries.

Step 2. Next, decide what should be done with each account

It’s natural to want each type of account to be managed differently. Some accounts could be deleted, or others could be transferred to loved ones or business colleagues.

Social media

Certain social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, allow for account memorialisation, preserving the profile for loved ones to view or leave commemorative messages. In contrast, platforms like X (formerly Twitter) deactivate accounts upon notification of a member's death. It's crucial to review the terms of service to avoid conflicts between the account holder's wishes and company policies.

Assets with monetary value

Include digital assets in your will for clarity on tasks for the Executor. Consider decisions like transferring revenue-generating assets, redeeming loyalty points, or shutting down online stores. Plan how accounts with earning potential should be managed.

Digital content

With the ease of storing photo, video, and written content on various online platforms, it’s beneficial to note what should happen to everything. For example, should YouTube videos be deleted? What is the plan for the hundreds of photos on Facebook? These items are often not considered when someone is planning their estate.

Step 3. Ensure someone has access

Once you’ve listed your assets and decided how each one should be handled, someone needs to know that an inventory of digital assets and accounts exist and how to access it. This could be the Executor or someone else, but this individual will settle or assist in the settlement of digital elements in the estate.

Step 4. Get professional advice

Speaking to a Will Writer is a great place to start to ensure everything is done correctly. They can assist with any language or clauses that need to be included in a Will, along with advice on how to store any wishes safely, securely, and legally.

Step 5. Update, update, update

It's quite likely that account details (e.g. passwords) could change or that new accounts need to be added to the inventory. Often, this is something we all do without much consideration, but after creating a digital estate plan, it's vital to keep your digital asset list updated regularly. It can give loved ones considerable peace of mind at an anxious
and emotional time.

Speak to us about your digital estate and how Auderli can help to keep digital records stored safely and allow access for your nominated executor or administrator.

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