What’s going to happen to your Facebook account when you die? Or all the songs you’ve downloaded from iTunes? According to a 2013 McAfee study, the average person has roughly $35,000 worth of assets stored on digital devices. That includes personal records such as photographs, videos, hobbies and career information, as well as purchased movies, books, music and games. Of those surveyed in the study, 55 percent said they store assets that would be impossible to recreate, re-download or repurchase.
As digital assets become more common for all of us, it is essential to incorporate them into your estate plans. If you fail do so it is highly likely that this property will be lost forever.
Most digital accounts are subject to complicated terms of service agreements, making it difficult or impossible for surviving loved ones to access them. Additionally, friends and relatives who try to log in to your accounts may face fines or penalties for violating state and federal privacy statutes and anti-hacking laws.
Until more consumer-friendly laws are put in place it’s imperative to incorporate into your estate plan detailed directions and information surrounding your digital assets.
Here are four steps to take now:
- Take a digital inventory. At least once a year, make a list of all your online accounts and subscriptions.
- Gather your passwords. Make a list of your current passwords and keep it in a safe place. (Several businesses offer secure, digital custodial services for lists like these.) Make sure the executor named in your will and/or the trustee of your living trust knows where to find the list.
- Be specific. It’s essential that your advance directives (i.e. financial power of attorney and health care power of attorney) include specific provisions authorizing someone you trust to deal with your digital assets and online accounts. Your will or living trust should have similar provisions to allow your loved ones to access those accounts after your death.
- Consult an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure you’ve covered all your bases when it comes to digital asset planning.
For assistance with your digital assets, please contact us at 678-319-0100.