Not so long ago, most people’s approach to estate planning involved drafting a simple “last will and testament” and nothing more. Nowadays, a comprehensive estate plan includes – at minimum – a will, a power of attorney designation, an advance healthcare directive and a digital estate plan.
A digital estate plan is now a necessary addition to this “basics” list due to the nature of what life looks like in the Digital Age. A will allows adults to detail how they want their assets distributed after death. Power of attorney and healthcare directives allow decisions to be made according to someone’s wishes if they are incapacitated due to injury or illness. A digital estate plan is distinct and deserves unique attention as an estate planning tool as a result.
What does a digital estate plan do?
Most American adults regularly do a significant amount of business online. You probably manage your finances via an electronic platform, engage with loved ones and colleagues on social media and communicate with the world at large over email. Your online footprint likely involves dozens of password-protected accounts.
A digital estate plan will allow you to dictate who does – and who doesn’t – get to manage these accounts in the event of your death or incapacitation. You’ll get to determine which accounts are closed or maintained, to whom digital assets and intellectual property rights are transferred and how login information will be shared with your executor.
Increasingly, the stress associated with managing a loved one’s digital assets is becoming problematic for surviving loved ones. If you don’t craft a digital estate plan now, dealing with accounts that they can’t access, uncertainty about which accounts you maintained and how you would have wanted your digital assets managed will be stress that you’ll leave for your loved ones to grapple with. Being proactive now is a superior option.