Digital estate planning for today’s world

As the internet of things has arrived, you have assets that are digital which, while covered by normal estate planning, may require more instructions.

Have you thought about?

  • What are your digital assets?
    • domain names
    • hosting
    • phone numbers
    • online stored photos and videos
    • email accounts
    • social media accounts
    • bank and investment accounts
  • What will be necessary to access and control these digital assets?
  • Who will have a list of accounts, usernames, and passwords if you are physically or mentally unable to access them yourself?
  • Who will be able to access your data backups on your computer or in the cloud?
  • Do your present legal documents provide the proper consent to be able to access your digital assets?

Most people have some type of planning to pass on physical assets: jewelry, furniture, guns, and other valuables.  It could be a written memorandum or even sticky notes (like my mother used).

But what about the 1,587 family photos that are stored in Google, Dropbox or Apple iCloud storage?  Will they be lost forever or will someone be able to access them on your phone or computer?

Who will be able to access your Facebook, Instagram or other social media?  What about photos or videos that may be stored there?  Will they be gone forever?

What about your business digital assets?  Websites, domains, hosting accounts, software access and other digital things?

Where are your financial records stored?  Phones, computers, the cloud, and websites like banking or financial transactions like Fidelity are all commonly used to transact personal and business transactions.

Here are some you might not have considered:

  • Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum Classic, Bitcoin SV., etc.
  • Quicken, Quickbooks or other financial programs
  • Domain names for websites through GoDaddy, Namecheap or other service
  • Web hosting through GoDaddy, Bluehost or other service
  • YouTube channels or other online video hosting
  • Google accounts
  • Online gaming
  • Online betting accounts
  • Blogs or other online content hosting
  • Normal bank accounts

In today’s world, there are YouTube channels that have been monetized through advertising or affiliate marketing that can generate thousands of dollars in monthly income.  Without proper authorization, those assets could be completely lost!

What is proper authorization?

When you logged into an online account last, what did you have to do to get access?

  • Username
  • Password
  • Solve a captcha?
  • Receive a text code on a mobile phone?
  • Answer a security question or several?

If you went on an errand and were in an accident and died, would your family be able to gain access to those digital assets?

So how do you preserve authorization and access through your estate plan?

What will be needed to provide access?

  1. Record the proper information. 

What are your accounts?  Create a list so that your family will know what digital assets you have and how they can get access.



Security questions

What mobile number is attached

How do you protect the list so that it cannot be used improperly?

A physical record can be kept in a safe place like a safety deposit box or lock storage (also fireproof), just like you keep your original will, passports, etc.

Secure online storage is also available.  I always suggest using a name for it that does not indicate what it is.  In other words, don’t use anything that indicates or say “Passwords”.   Try something like Pet names, Recipes or something that is not quite so interesting to a searcher. 

Check into online secure storage.  Roboform, 1Password, and Dashlane are highly rated.

  1. Do you really own the asset? Even though you “bought it”, software programs may only be a license to use the program and it may not be transferable.  If you used a media company to create a website and pay a monthly fee, you may discover that the media company has complete control and ownership.  If you don’t continue to pay the monthly fee, it’s gone!

Website source code can be copied and the site can be cloned but you can’t do that once it is gone!

  1. Cloud storage backups.   You may have data backed up in the cloud,  but is it also backed up on a “hard drive” that is not on the cloud.  You may also choose to have an additional online backup.  It is also a good idea to scan very important documents.  Bank statements are only stored in your bank online account to be accessible for a year.  You may need them for tax purposes when they are no longer available.  Scans of birth certificates, passports, licenses, and other important documents is a great idea.  Remember though that your original will must be retained.   It is difficult to probate a copy of a will. 

When backing up thing, remember that “belt and suspenders” overkill is appropriate.  Multiple backups are recommended but make sure that you stay secure.

  1. Do your estate planning documents provide proper authorization?  Take the time to review your documents.  Blanket authorizations may not suffice.  Make sure that you have a HIPAA release for medical information.  Make sure that your fiduciaries can have access to and reset or recover your passwords and user names.

Review your estate plan at least once a year.  Make sure your lists are kept updated.  The laws regarding digital assets are constantly changing to keep us with the rapid changes.

If you have not had your annual review, please call us today to follow up, 210-690-3700 or schedule on the calendar, .  We have a checklist that we used in the review but it is important to have the personal review, even by Zoom, to keep things current and make sure what the facts are for the situations.