Managing Digital Assets In Your Estate Plan
You have drafted and updated a will, filled out your healthcare proxy and power of attorney forms, formed an irrevocable trust and charitable trust and are ready to relax and enjoy retirement. Sure, you have a few online accounts and some intellectual property, but as long as you make some provisions in your will, you should be covered, right? Well, technically speaking, it is better to devise a plan specific to all of your digital assets including how to access online accounts or who takes custody of these accounts upon your passing. In this digital age, now more than ever you must safeguard your accounts.
What is Digital Asset Management Exactly?
Digital asset management describes the process of controlling, securing and ensuring only verified access to all your online accounts. This includes financial accounts, your blog posts, websites, social media accounts, email accounts and data storage clouds. Administrators of these accounts do not want someone to gain unauthorized access to your accounts, and if you do not have an estate plan in place to handle digital assets it might be extremely difficult for your heirs to close these accounts.
For example, Facebook has a legacy contact option that allows you to grant a friend access to your account in the event of your death, allowing them to switch the profile to a legacy page and archive your posts. It also gives them permission to access and delete your account if necessary. Data storage clouds can be accessed and information can be downloaded so long as your heir or beneficiary has a detailed list of your account username/password information and instructions for how to access each account. Blog archives can be deleted or downloaded and saved to a desktop, and photos can be saved to another account, computer or external hard drive. In a future blog post, the authors will discuss electronic intellectual property such as digital rights to literary, musical or artistic content.
What about Data Encryption?
Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and other financial accounts may require users to use data encryption, two-factor authentication or a VPN in order to verify their identity. VPN stands for virtual private network. It uses encryption for a safe WIFI connection. Two factor authentication requires the account holder to enter a unique passcode sent to another email account or cell phone after they enter their password to protect the security of their account. While this keeps your account as safe as possible it can complicate matters for your beneficiaries after you pass if detailed instructions are not left in your estate plan. You may want to prepare a written, signed and notarized document granting access to your executor or personal representative to present to administrators of your digital financial assets. Certain companies might require proof of death as well such as a copy of the death certificate and court order appointing the executor or personal representative of an estate before they can release funds or unlock an account.
Contact Tampa Estate Law Attorneys at Bubley & Bubley, P.A.
Estate planning is a fluid process. As we get older and continue to accumulate physical assets or increase our online presence, it is important we account for changes in our estate plan. While it seems counterintuitive to write passwords down, you do need to have a plan of action so that loved ones can access your online accounts and digital assets when the time comes. If you have questions about digital assets or need help getting started, contact our Tampa estate planning attorneys at Bubley & Bubley, P.A.