Experienced Legal Representation

Addressing your digital footprint in your estate plan

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Estate Planning

Incorporating the reality of your digital footprint into your estate plan is an effort that you may not have spent much time thinking about. Yet, making this effort is more important than ever.

From social media profiles and digital photo libraries to online banking and documents stored in the Cloud, your digital assets may hold significant sentimental, financial and intellectual value. As a result, addressing your digital footprint in your estate plan can help you to better ensure your online life is managed according to your wishes after you pass away or if you become incapacitated due to illness or injury. 

Getting started on digital estate planning

The first step in managing your digital assets is to take an inventory. This involves listing all your digital assets, such as email accounts, social media profiles, digital wallets, online storage accounts and domain names. Consider every account that is password protected. For each asset, detail how to access them, including usernames, passwords and any other necessary information. Be mindful of security and privacy when storing and sharing this information.

Once you have a comprehensive inventory, consider what you would like to happen to these assets. Some digital assets, like photos or emails, may have sentimental value and could be passed on to loved ones. Others, such as social media accounts, may need to be closed or memorialized. Financially valuable assets, like domain names or intellectual property, may require specific instructions for transfer or management.

You also may want to research the terms of service agreements for your online accounts, as they can dictate what happens to your digital assets upon death. Some platforms have established processes for handling accounts after an owner’s death, which can influence your estate planning decisions. For instance, Facebook allows users to designate a “legacy contact” empowered to manage certain aspects of an account after the user’s passing.

Finally, you’ll want to consider creating a digital will or addendum to your traditional will, specifically designed to cover your digital assets. This document should clearly outline your wishes and provide the necessary authority for your executor – or an alternative digital executor – to manage these assets. 

While this is not going to be a particularly enjoyable undertaking, there are simply too many privacy concerns – and, potentially, a great deal more at stake – to leave the management of your digital footprint after your death up to state law and chance.