Protecting Your Digital Assets When Creating Your Estate Plan

Over the summer a family friend’s sister passed away. Her death was sudden and a surprise to her loved ones. She left behind two sons who have been searching for information about their mom’s bank and retirement accounts. They don’t know the passwords to her computer or iPad, let alone to her online investment accounts. Inventorying her personal assets has been such a struggle, and something no one should have to deal with while mourning the loss of a loved one.

So many of us use computers, smartphones or other electronic devices on a daily basis, without realizing we’re creating digital assets that will remain after we pass away. Those assets include your online bank and stock-trading accounts, email accounts, and social media accounts where you share photos, personal information and videos. They also include any money you have in your PayPal or eBay accounts. Even your iTunes account is a digital asset as you’ve invested money in creating your digital library of music, movies, and shows. In fact, McAfee currently estimates the average value of a person’s digital assets as being approximately $55,000.

Interestingly, when completing estate plans, digital assets are often overlooked. Only a few states have enacted laws giving executors access to online accounts, and California is not one of them. Every Internet provider has its own guidelines about access to user accounts, and it’s questionable whether your family members would be given access if you were unable to access your accounts yourself.

Here are a few important steps you can take to ensure your digital assets are protected when creating your estate plan:

  1. Inventory your online accounts, including all email, investment, and social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Make sure to include your username and password to each account in your inventory, as well as the username and password to your digital devices like your computer, tablet and smartphone.
  1. Store this inventory in a secure place like a safety deposit box or safe, or give the list to your attorney for safekeeping.
  1. Make sure to give access to your digital inventory to your executor. Either give them a copy, or let them know how to locate the inventory, in the event you become incapacitated or pass away.
  1. Remember to update your inventory every six months. You don’t want to miss including a new bank account, or technological device, so make sure your inventory is current.
  1. Finally, contact the financial institutions, email providers, and any other websites you use to conduct business and ask them about their policies concerning what happens to your accounts after you die. Then let your executor know how you’d like your accounts handled during your estate administration.

Don’t forget this important aspect when finalizing your estate plan. It will take little time and effort on your part to inventory your digital assets, so make sure to protect your family from having to spend time and effort searching for your online accounts.

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Contact Skye Ferrera today at [email protected] and schedule your free estate planning consultation.


This blog is for educational purposes only, and not to provide specific legal advice. You understand that there is no attorney client relationship established between you and the blog site publisher by using this blog. If you are seeking legal advice about your specific situation, please contact a licensed attorney.