Most people begin to downsize as they get older, partly to make their homes more convenient and simpler to manage and partly to avoid leaving an overwhelming number of unusable items for their children to sift through after they’re gone. Many of these same people, however, forget that their home in cyberspace also gets cluttered. At Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. we advise our clients not to leave a digital dust storm for their loved ones to deal with, both to save their loved ones time and headaches and to protect their privacy.
Without proper planning and oversight, your digital assets can become undecipherable and leave your loved ones with added stress as they grieve your loss. Just as you plan your estate to make your life and legacy orderly, it’s wise to leave your digital footprint clear and unencumbered. Contact our estate planning attorneys to make sure your internet estate is as organized and accessible as your physical one.
What Are the Elements of Your Digital Estate?
The first step to take in putting your digital estate in order is identifying its various elements. Much as you may have already done with your physical assets, this involves exploring, investigating, and remembering past and recent actions. Depending on whether you have recorded such actions carefully, this task will be more or less challenging. Hopefully, looking at the following list will help assist your recall:
- Email accounts: Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook
- Social media profiles: Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, LinkedIn
- Online banking and financial accounts: bank accounts, retirement funds, stock portfolios
- Subscription services: Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime
- Cloud storage: Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud
- Digital media collections: eBooks, digital music, movies
- Personal websites
- Family photos and videos: Google, Amazon, Shutterfly
Accessing Your Inventory
Remember that however extensive your digital estate is, it has no value to your family unless they can access it. That’s why it’s time to create a secure document on which you list not only a detailed inventory of your digital assets, but all passwords, other access credentials, and recovery methods. Include any security questions, two-factor authentication details, and PINs. Don’t forget that this list is only valuable if it is updated regularly.
Deciding Who Your Digital Beneficiaries Are
Just as you have carefully chosen your personal representative and beneficiaries, you want to be thoughtful when it comes to choosing your “digital executor.” In Massachusetts, our experienced attorneys will ensure that your will names the person you have appointed to legally access and manage your digital assets. This individual should be tech-savvy and trustworthy.
If you have specific wishes relative to what will happen to some of your digital assets (for example, you may want your social media accounts to be deleted), you should outline these preferences in your inventory document and make sure your digital executor knows where to find it.
Durable Power of Attorney and Digital Wills
Although your Durable Power of Attorney can grant someone the ability to manage your digital assets if you become incapacitated, you should specify this authority explicitly in the document. If you want to pass your digital assets on after death, you must specify that your will is digital. This is an area of estate planning in which our skilled estate planning attorneys’ familiarity with Massachusetts state laws will be invaluable.
Security Is Always Important
We all know that crime thrives on the internet, so it is crucial to take precautions when dealing with digital data. We recommend that you protect your financial assets and your privacy by using encrypted drives, secure cloud storage, or a safe digital deposit box.
Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys Today
Now is the time to plan both your physical and digital estate so that your legacy is intact in both realms. Get in touch with our savvy attorneys as soon as possible so that you leave your loved ones well taken care of on both sides of the internet.