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The Importance of Digital Estate Planning

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In the age of social media, email, and online banking, one step that often gets missed in the estate planning process is planning for what happens to your online presence after you die.

So many of us live our lives online in today’s fast-paced world, but so few of us consider these online accounts to be “assets” that must be planned for. But the Internet will go on, with your accounts intact, whether you are still using them or not.

Providing for these assets in your estate plan is the perfect way to let your loved ones know how you’d like these matters handled. Texas estate planning attorney Keith Morris has some tips for how to incorporate digital assets into a solid estate plan.

Step 1: Catalogue Your Digital Assets
The first step to creating a digital estate plan is to account for all of your digital assets and record how they can be accessed. Digital assets may include, but are not limited to:

  • Email accounts
  • Blogs
  • Websites
  • Social Media accounts
  • Marketplace accounts
  • Banking and financial accounts
  • Online bill pay accounts
  • Data storage accounts
  • Photo and video sharing accounts
  • Online media accounts

From Facebook to Netflix and iTunes to eBay, any login info for an online account or your personal computers should be documented. Update this list at least once a year.

Step 2: Secure Your Data
This inventory you have created for your digital assets could be quite valuable in the wrong hands. Identity theft is a serious problem, and you must protect your digital information to avoid financial problems.

Some ideas for safe storage include:

  • On a flash drive in a safe deposit box
  • In a home safe

Never email this information to anyone, and do not leave printed copies unsecured or saved on any device that is not password protected.

Step 3: Finalizing Your Plan
The final step of creating a solid digital estate plan is laying out in your estate plan how you want these assets handled and naming an executor to fulfill these wishes.

Some things to consider when deciding how you want your digital assets handled are:

  • Would you like your social media accounts deactivated?
  • What are the terms and conditions for your online accounts in regards to access after death or incapacity?
  • Should online photos be printed to give to family members?
  • Should final messages be posted to your accounts on your behalf, and what should these messages say?

Choose an executor who will be impartial, can be trusted to handle sensitive information, and has the technical know-how to carry out your wishes. One option to serve as an executor is a probate attorney. Another is a trusted friend or family member.

Whomever you choose, make sure they are able to access your plan and inventory list. You should also consider giving your executor the right of power of attorney over your digital accounts, in the event you become incapacitated.

Learn more about digital assets and how to plan for them by contacting a Houston estate planning lawyer today.