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What Happens to My Digital Assets When I Die?

By Jeanna Simonson | Expert reviewed by Natasha Cornelius, CLU
July 27, 2023
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When thinking through your estate plan, it’s important to consider not only physical possessions but also your digital assets. Digital assets encompass various electronic records you own or control, such as email accounts, online bank accounts, social media profiles, blogs, cloud storage, online subscriptions, and more.

Properly managing these assets is crucial to protect your digital presence and provide peace of mind for your loved ones. In this article, we’ll guide you through the steps to plan for your digital assets after you pass away.

Understanding Digital Assets

Your digital assets are essentially any electronic record that you own or have control over. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Email accounts
  • Online bank accounts
  • Social media accounts
  • Blogs/vlogs
  • Cloud storage
  • Online subscriptions/memberships
  • Anything stored on your computer and phone

Keep in mind that digital assets do not refer to the devices themselves, such as your computer or phone, nor does it refer to the service providing access to the asset, such as Facebook or WordPress.

Also, you might not have 100% ownership in all your digital assets. Your ownership rights in digital assets are usually set forth in the service agreement you clicked through when you set up your online account. These service agreements differ from company to company.

What Should I Do to Plan for My Digital Assets When I Die?

To ensure your digital assets are handled according to your wishes, follow these steps:

Document Login Information Securely

  • Create a comprehensive list of all your digital accounts (email, social media, online banking, cloud storage, etc.) along with associated login credentials.
  • Store this document securely in a physical location (locked drawer or personal safe) or use password-protected digital storage.
  • Avoid saving sensitive login information in easily accessible places like unencrypted files or sticky notes.

Inform a Trusted Individual

  • Designate a trusted person (family member, close friend, or appointed executor) to handle your digital assets after your passing.
  • Share the location and access details of the secure document with the trusted individual to ensure proper management of your digital legacy.

Avoid Including Sensitive Information in Your Will

  • Refrain from directly including digital asset login details in your will.
  • Wills are public during probate proceedings, which can expose sensitive information to unauthorized individuals.
  • Keep login information separate and provide instructions to your executor on accessing it securely.

Update and Review Regularly

  • Regularly review and update your list of digital assets and login information to keep it current.
  • Ensure the designated individual is aware of any changes made to this information.

Consider Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for added security on your digital accounts.
  • 2FA requires a password and secondary verification (e.g., code sent to your phone), reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Consult Legal Professionals

  • Seek advice from legal experts experienced in digital estate planning.
  • Get guidance on the laws and regulations governing digital assets in your jurisdiction.
  • Ensure your estate planning documents address digital assets and provide appropriate instructions.

Use Online Legacy Services

  • Some platforms (e.g., Facebook) offer legacy contact features to manage your account after you pass away.
  • Explore and utilize these options available on different platforms to plan for your digital legacy.

What Happens to My Digital Assets if I Don’t Do Anything?

When it comes to managing your digital assets after you pass away, it’s essential to take proactive steps. If you don’t make arrangements, the probate court will refer to your state’s laws. These laws can differ, but many states have adopted a set of rules called the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.

Key points of this Act include:

  • Privacy of Communications: If you don’t explicitly give permission in your documents, the person handling your digital assets (like an executor or attorney-in-fact) won’t have access to your private messages and emails.
  • Access to Other Digital Assets: The appointed person can access things like photos or online accounts, such as eBay or PayPal, to manage them.
  • Using Online Tools: Some online platforms have features like Facebook’s Legacy Contact, which allows you to choose someone to manage your account after you pass away. If you’ve set up such tools, they can override conflicting instructions in your will and provide guidance on how to handle your digital assets.
  • Company Terms of Service: If there’s no clear permission in your will, trust, or power of attorney regarding specific digital assets, the person in charge can check the terms of service agreements of the digital companies to understand the access rules.
  • Different Rules for Different Assets: Some digital assets, like virtual currency, may be easier to access, while others, like electronic communications, may have limited access, only showing metadata (basic information about the communication) without revealing the actual content.

FAQs About Digital Legacy

Can my digital assets be passed on through a will?

Yes, you can include instructions regarding your digital assets in your will. However, relying solely on a will might not be sufficient, as certain online platforms have their own policies that could override your will’s instructions.

What happens to my email accounts after I pass away?

The fate of your email accounts depends on the service provider’s policies. Some platforms may delete the account after a period of inactivity, while others may offer options for data access or account memorialization.

Can I appoint more than one digital executor?

Yes, you can appoint multiple digital executors. However, it’s crucial to ensure they can work together efficiently and have access to the necessary information.

How can I ensure my social media profiles are handled according to my preferences?

Many social media platforms provide the option to set preferences for your account after your passing. You can choose to have your account memorialized or permanently deleted.

Should I share all my account credentials with my digital executor while I’m alive?

It’s essential to balance security and accessibility. Consider using a secure password manager that allows you to grant access to your digital executor without revealing all passwords directly.

Are digital assets subject to inheritance taxes?

Inheritance tax laws for digital assets vary by jurisdiction. It’s advisable to consult with a legal expert who can provide guidance based on your specific location.

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In today’s digital age, managing your digital assets is crucial in estate planning. Ensure your executor is not only trustworthy but also tech-savvy. By planning ahead, protect yourself from identity theft and ease the process of settling your estate for your heirs.

End-of-life documents like wills and directives ensure your last wishes are well-documented, easing the burden on loved ones during a difficult time. If you don’t yet have instructions in place, learn more about what makes them beneficial and how to create them in our guide: How to Prepare for Death: 7 Tasks You Need to Complete.


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