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Digital Estate Planning: A Guide to Managing Your Digital Assets Before Death (PART 1)

Thompson Mungo Firm Sept. 5, 2023

In today's digital age, it's crucial to plan for the future and effectively manage your digital assets. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the importance of digital estate planning and provide valuable insights on preparing your digital legacy for the event of death. Learn how to safeguard your online presence and ensure a seamless transition with essential steps and best practices.

A. The Significance of Digital Estate Planning

Digital estate planning is becoming increasingly important as our lives become more intertwined with technology. Managing your digital assets before death ensures that your online presence is secure and your digital legacy is protected. Neglecting digital asset management can lead to potential complications in accessing your digital assets and challenges in protecting your digital presence after your passing. Proactively planning can safeguard your valuable digital assets and provide peace of mind for yourself and your family.

B. Key Steps for Managing Your Digital Assets

  1. Creating an Inventory: Create a comprehensive inventory of your digital accounts, including social media accounts, email accounts, online subscriptions, and digital files. List usernames, passwords, and associated important information. This inventory will be valuable for your attorney or loved ones when managing your digital assets.

  2. Understanding Platform Policies: Familiarize yourself with the policies of each platform or service provider you use. Learn about their procedures for handling accounts after the user's death, whether they offer memorialization options, deactivation, or account closure. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions and communicate your preferences effectively through your estate planning and documented preferences.

  3. Incorporate Digital Asset Management in Your Estate Planning (Power of Attorney): Appoint a trusted individual who will handle your digital assets according to your wishes. Share important information such as the location of your asset inventory, account credentials, and instructions on how to manage each account. Choose someone who is technologically savvy and trustworthy. Discover the importance of including your digital assets in your power of attorney ensuring comprehensive management and protection. Ensure that your power of attorney document explicitly grants your agent the legal authority to manage your digital assets. Check platform-specific policies regarding granting access to digital accounts. Document necessary instructions, consent, and any legal forms required by service providers to allow your agent access to your digital assets.

  4. Securing Your Assets: Implement strong security measures for your digital assets. Use unique, strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. Regularly update and back up important files and documents, and store them in encrypted and secure locations. By taking these precautions, you can protect your digital assets from unauthorized access or loss.

C. Practices for Digital Asset Security

  1. Use Strong Passwords: Create complex passwords that include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid using easily guessable information like birthdays or pet names.

  2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Add an extra layer of security to your accounts by enabling two-factor authentication. This requires a second verification step, such as a code sent to your mobile device, to access your accounts.

  3. Regularly Backup Your Files: Backup your important files and documents regularly to prevent data loss. Utilize cloud storage services or external hard drives to keep multiple copies of your digital assets.

  4. Store Files Securely: Encrypt sensitive files and store them in secure locations. Consider using password-protected folders or encrypted storage devices for an added layer of protection.

D. Communicating Your Digital Estate Plan

It's crucial to communicate your digital estate plan to your loved ones to ensure your wishes are understood and executed. Start by discussing your plan with your designated digital executor. Provide them with the necessary information, including the location of your asset inventory, account credentials, and instructions on how to manage each account. Additionally, educate your family members about the importance of digital assets and the need to manage them effectively.

E. Regular Review and Updating of Your Digital Estate Plan

Periodically review and update your digital estate plan to reflect any changes in your digital presence. Consider new accounts or platforms you've started using and accounts you no longer use and wish to close. Stay informed about platform policies and make necessary adjustments to your plan accordingly.

Digital estate planning is an essential aspect of managing your online presence and ensuring a smooth transition of your digital assets after your passing. By creating an inventory, understanding platform policies, designating a digital executor, securing your assets, and communicating your plan to your loved ones, you can protect your digital legacy. Regularly reviewing and updating your plan will keep it relevant and effective. Take proactive steps today to manage your digital assets and provide peace of mind for yourself and your family in the future.