If you are reading this, you have a "digital estate." The question is: Do you have a digital estate plan?
YOU HAVE A DIGITAL ESTATE
Your digital estate is everything you have a right to that exists in digital form. This includes your usernames and passwords for all of your social media accounts, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It also includes your online access to your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and other financial records. AND it even includes the digital versions of important personal, legal, and administrative documents that might also exist as hard copies.
Before everyone had a digital estate, people kept their records and documents in a centralized location - a desk drawer, a home safe, or a safe deposit box. So long as someone knew the location of the records and had access to it, managing your estate during disability or following death was relatively straightforward (at least from the perspective of locating records).
Not any more.
WHY YOU NEED A DIGITAL ESTATE PLAN
Now, most people do not have a centralized record of important documents, usernames, and passwords. Or, it is woefully incomplete or outdated, often omitting access to social media accounts. This information is simply "in our heads."
During disability or following death, it can be incredibly frustrating for loved ones to organize and manage your assets when they have no idea what or where they are, or when they have no means to access them. Further, it can be nearly impossible to protect those assets from identity theft.
An up-to-date estate plan will not only consider and account for your real estate or retirement accounts, but will also ensure access to and control of your digital assets.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO ASAP
Right now, you need to create a list of all online accounts - whether banks, brokerage, or social media - along with your usernames and passwords for each. Make sure that at least one person - your spouse or a trusted friend - knows where the list is located. If this is a digital list (for instance, if you create the list in Word, Excel, or on Google Drive) make sure your person has the necessary access to the list, especially if it is password protected.
If you have an existing estate plan that does NOT account for your digital assets, it is time to update it.
If you are thinking about creating an estate plan, make sure the attorney you are working with accounts for your digital assets.
The Basics: What's a "trust" and what does it do for me?