Estate Planning for Your Digital Assets: The Digital Asset Plan

By Kelli Brown

If you have taken the time to complete your basic estate planning, you may think that your work is done. Not so fast. Estate planning in the 21st Century means that you consider your digital assets as well and have a Digital Asset Plan in place. 

A Digital Asset Plan itemizes your digital assets, which can be financial (such as online bank, brokerage accounts, and Icloud), social (like Facebook and LinkedIn), and “other” (such as your stored photos) and provides information and direction concerning those digital assets.

The Importance of a Digital Estate Plan

Even though you may not think of your Facebook account as an “asset,” think about all the information, documents, and apps (such as what may be stored in the iCloud) that do have potential value. Much of your valuable work may be digital and stored in password-protected areas of your computer or in “the cloud.” Also, if your comfort level online is high, then perhaps you complete your financial business on-line only and do not receive paper documents in the mail. If this is so, imagine if you passed away suddenly, how would the people who love you figure out how to address you financial business? The answer is that an updated list stored in a safe location makes it easy and much less expensive for those in charge to wrap up the legal affairs of your life.  

Here are three some steps to assist you in creating a Digital Asset Plan:

Step 1: Make an Inventory of your digital assets and how to access them. You should have your online passwords and online account numbers in one location such as a spreadsheet.

Your digital inventory could include the following:

  • Your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media accounts.
  • Blogs, domain names, and websites you own.
  • Bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement plans, credit cards, loans, and insurance accounts that you access online.
  • Your e-mail accounts.
  • Online retail accounts and apps from stores, flash sale sites or marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, and iTunes.
  • Photo- or video-sharing sites.
  • Music sites.
  • PayPal or other online payment accounts.
  • Bills you pay online such as utility, cable, and water.
  • Any other online accounts such as ones from airline sites with your frequent flier miles and document and data storage accounts like Google Docs.

Step 2: Find a safe place to store this information. Your digital Inventory contains personal information that could lead to identity theft and financial losses if it gets into the wrong hands. Be very careful with this information. It is very important that this list remain private and safe

One option is to save your Inventory on the Flashdrive and place it in your safety deposit box at your bank or in your safe at home with your Estate Planning documents. 

You should not:

  • Email your Inventory to anyone (ever!).
  • Print copies that are left out in the open or unsecured.
  • Save your Inventory on a device (computer, IPad, etc.) that is not password protected.
  • Save your Inventory on a device that does not have a erasing ability if stolen.

Step 3: Update Your Inventory Once a Year. Try to update your Inventory of your Digital Assets at least once a year. A good time to re-visit this is each year when you complete your taxes.