Digital numbers with hundred dollar bills

Managing a Decedent’s Digital Legacy: How to Handle Digital Assets

Managing digital assets has emerged as a critical part of estate planning. At Surprenant & Beneski, our estate planning attorneys have many years of experience managing and preserving digital assets for clients throughout Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod & the Islands. Contact us now to discuss how we can help manage yours during your lifetime and preserve them as part of the legacy you leave.

Examples of Digital Assets

Digital assets encompass a wide range of electronic records, including:

  • Accounts on Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, eBay and email 
  • Bills paid online (e.g. utility bills)
  • PayPal as a way of paying for goods and services
  • Online banking and investment accounts
  • Online trading and wealth management accounts
  • Websites you own
  • Photos, art, music, films, videos, text
  • Gaming accounts and avatars 
  • Medical records and legal documents
  • Any data stored electronically, whether online, in the cloud, or on a physical device
  • Blogs you manage
  • Domain names and other intellectual property (Apple and Facebook have legacy forms to be filled out).

Notice that some of the items on the above list may have great personal value. Others, such as your trademarked or copywritten materials, might be a source of income. This is one of the reasons it is essential to have an estate planning attorney who has current knowledge and cutting-edge skills to protect all of your accumulated wealth, including your digital assets. 

How Digital Assets Should Be Managed as Part of Your Estate

Managing digital assets in an estate requires foresight and meticulous planning. As with other assets, you should first compile a comprehensive inventory of all digital assets, including login credentials. This should be regularly updated and securely stored, perhaps in a digital estate plan. 

Next, decide on the fate of each asset: whether it should be transferred, archived, or deleted upon your passing. Name a digital executor in your will someone both tech-savvy and trustworthy to ensure your digital estate is handled according to your wishes. Our estate planning attorneys are well-prepared not only to protect your digital assets now and to see that they are distributed the way you want at the time of your death but also to help facilitate methods for their management if you become incapacitated.  

Ways to Preserve and Protect Digital Assets

Preserving digital assets involves safeguarding them against unauthorized access and loss. Use strong, unique passwords for each account and store them using secure methods like encrypted digital vaults. Also, plan to make regular backups of digital content to prevent loss during technical failures.

Since privacy is a concern, it is important to be aware that your will is a public document. For this reason, your digital assets should be referred to in your will, but no detailed information about them should be included in the document. Only your appointed fiduciary should have full access to the inventory and its passwords. 

Consequences of Failing to Protect Your Digital Assets

Neglecting digital assets can have severe repercussions. For example, if bills go unpaid online, services may be cut off or penalties charged. Also, without knowledgeable advice and protection, there is the risk of identity theft or misuse of personal data. Sentimental assets like photographs or videos could be lost forever. Valuable intellectual property or online businesses could fall into the wrong hands, leading to financial losses for your estate and your beneficiaries. This is why it’s crucial to work with a skilled digital asset protection attorney.

What Our Lawyers Can Do To Help Keep Your Digital Assets Safe

At Surprenant & Beneski, we offer expert legal guidance in securing your digital legacy. Our services include:

  • Assisting in creating a comprehensive digital asset inventory
  • Advising on digital estate planning strategies
  • Ensuring your digital assets are effectively integrated into your overall estate plan
  • Helping to set up legal frameworks for the transfer and management of digital assets
  • Ensuring compliance with various platform policies and state laws

The Takeaway

At Surprenant & Beneski, we are committed to helping you manage and preserve your digital legacy. Contact us now to ensure your digital assets are protected and passed on according to your wishes.