Digital Estate Planning: What Happens with Your Digital Assets When You Die?
In the past, estate planning used to be about deciding who will inherit and manage your finances and physical assets after you die. Today, a big part of our lives happens online, driving demand for a new service: digital estate planning. At Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel, our experienced estate planning lawyers can help you with a digital estate plan to distribute all of your assets as you see fit.
What Is Digital Estate Planning?
Digital estate planning is the process of organizing and planning what happens with your digital assets after your death. This includes appointing persons to access and control those assets, such as executors, trustees, conservators, fiduciaries, or attorneys.
What Are Digital Assets?
Digital assets include:
- Email accounts
- Social media accounts
- Online financial accounts
- Digital subscriptions
- Electronic files
Why Is Digital Asset Estate Planning Important?
A digital estate plan makes it easier to settle your affairs.
For instance, your executor or another appointed person can log in to your email and social accounts to let your connections know you have passed. They may also cancel any subscriptions and either deactivate or “memorialize” your accounts.
You could also instruct the executor to delete any documents, photos, videos, and other electronic files or distribute them to your loved ones.
Perhaps more importantly, having easy access to your financial accounts enables executors to quickly gauge any outstanding debts. Otherwise, they would have to contact each financial institution and submit a death certificate to get copies of your statements.
How to Create a Digital Estate Plan in Central Virginia
When you contact Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel, we’ll help you through the following digital estate planning process:
1. Catalog Your Digital Assets
Make a list of your digital assets, including log-in details, passwords, and physical storage locations. Let your family know where the list is, and update it regularly.
2. Back Up Everything
Copy all assets onto physical devices, such as external hard drives, CDs, or USB sticks, and put them somewhere safe. It is also a good idea to back up all data to a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive.
3. Review the Local Legislation
In 2017, Virginia passed the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which enables fiduciaries to manage various digital assets but restricts access to electronic communications without your explicit consent.
4. Decide What Will Happen to Your Assets
Leave specific instructions regarding the deletion, deactivation, or distribution of all assets. Be sure to specify whether this will be the executor’s or someone else’s responsibility.
5. Get Legal Advice
Digital assets estate planning is a complicated process. The best way to ensure that there are no loose ends is to have a lawyer draft a will, trust, or power-of-attorney with detailed instructions.
Talk to an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney in Central Virginia Today
At Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel, we have been helping clients in Central Virginia plan their estates and the future of their families for decades. Call 434-589-2958, or in or near Powhatan call 804-598-1348, for a free consultation to discuss your digital estate planning needs.