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Estate Plan - Graphic showing digital assets which should be included in your estate plan

Digital estate planning is now more important than ever

by Legacy Plan
August 5, 2016

Across the last few years, legal experts have been increasingly extolling the need for people to engage in estate planning with regard to their digital/electronic/online assets. What may have started several years ago as a discussion about gaining access to a deceased loved one's email in the face of an obstinate email service provider's refusal to release password information has turned into something much larger. Today, as people of all ages live a greater and greater part of their lives online, the need for a careful and complete digital estate plan is higher than it's ever been.

In the past, online technologies were things that only technophiles and other young people used. In the mid 1990s, email was just something that nerds and college kids used. Then there was early social media like MySpace, which again was predominantly populated by the young and tech-inclined. Today, people of all ages use email and social media. There's Facebook and Pinterest. There's also Instagram and Twitter. There are your photos on Flickr. Also, financial affairs are increasingly handled online, with most financial institutions offering easy-to-use apps and online platforms.

What's more, for some people, digital assets involve more than just content with sentimental value (like pictures or messages) or debt obligations (like utilities or credit cards) but money-making things, as well. These might involve things like YouTube channels with millions of subscribers or a blog with a massive number of followers, either of which can be revenue-generating assets.

Whatever type of digital assets you have, it is exceptionally important to make sure that you have a plan in the event something happens to you. Just like creating an estate plan for your “traditional” assets involves careful preparation, so does digital asset planning. First, just like how you want to ensure that your estate plan accounts for all of your assets, you will want to make sure that your digital estate plan accounts for all of your online items, as well. To accomplish this, start by making a list of all of your digital assets. This means everything from your hardware (like, say, your laptop computer, desktop computer or external hard drive) to your email accounts to your social media accounts to any bills (from banking to utilities to credit cards and so forth) that you manage online.

Your list shouldn't stop with your online financial accounts, your email and your social media accounts. It may include things that you might not necessarily immediately associate with estate planning at all. This list needs to include anything that your loved ones will NEED after you pass away or that you WANT them to have after you're gone. For example, remember that family tree complete with digital pictures, family stories and research notes you have stored on that genealogy website? If you want to pass it on, you need to include it in this list.

The list needs to include the complete set of instructions for accessing each account, complete with login user IDs and passwords. Your digital estate plan should also spell out exactly how you want each asset handled, which can be particularly important with your revenue-generating digital assets. Because this list includes a step-by-step set of instructions on how to access some of your most valuable personal information, it is essential that you protect your digital estate plan list extremely carefully. The key is that the list must be stored somewhere that is very secure but also readily accessible to the person you've designated to deal with your digital assets after your death.

How do I create an estate plan?

There are numerous options and scenarios to consider when developing an estate plan that protects your legacy and achieves your objectives, and important decisions should be made with the advice of qualified lawyers and financial experts. Membership with Legacy Assurance Plan provides members with valuable resources and guidance to develop comprehensive estate plans that take life's contingencies into consideration and leave a positive impact for generations to come. Legacy Assurance Plan members also receive peace of mind that a team of trusted, experienced professionals will assist them in developing legal, financial and tax strategies that will meet their needs today and for years to come through periodic reviews.

This article is published by Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at

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