When most people start preparing their estate plan, the focus is usually on distributing money, property, businesses, heirlooms, and other tangible assets. Digital assets, however, are often overlooked which then leaves ownership of them in limbo. In order to protect your digital assets, Brandon estate lawyers will encourage you to make sure that they are included in your estate plan.
The first step in making sure that your loved ones will have access to your digital assets if something happens to you is to identify those assets. Think about any online accounts you may have and mobile apps that you use. This includes social media accounts, rewards programs, digital entertainment, and photo and video storage. Don’t forget any online shops, payment portals like PayPal or Venmo, and websites or domains that you own. If you haven’t already, create a record of usernames and passwords, and make sure that those will be made available to your loved ones when the time comes. You can also use a password storage service such as LastPass to make this step easier.
If you have information stored on your phone, your family will need to know your passcode in order to access them. It will also be important to leave behind the password to your email accounts in case of any login issues such as resetting passwords or 2-step authentication.
Once you’ve identified all of your digital assets and created a record of usernames and passwords, let your estate planning attorney know about them so that he or she can work with you to have them included in your estate plan. Laws designed to protect us all from identity theft can also prevent your family from gaining access to your accounts. Having a legal document that gives them authorization they may need to access your digital information will make the process easier.
Some companies may not give your fiduciaries access to your account without your consent or permission. As a result, companies like Google or Facebook may lock your account, preventing your loved ones from being able to access your photos, messages, and other important information. Some companies, including Facebook, allow you to designate someone to take control of your account. This person, referred to as a legacy contact, will be able to manage your account once it’s been changed to a memorial account. **** Here’s a link to more info about setting up a legacy contact: https://www.facebook.com/help/1568013990080948 ****
Finally, keep a physical backup of your records and accounts. On a regular basis, download your data and save it to your computer or another storage device like an external hard drive. Facebook, Google, and other companies make the backup process as simple as a couple of clicks.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on using the proper language to make sure that your heirs have proper access to your digital assets. Using broad or vague terms may not be enough or may give them access to information that you don’t want them to have. They can also keep you posted if any of the rapidly-changing laws related to internet privacy and digital assets affect your estate planning documents and making any necessary changes. If you have additional questions about how to leave digital assets to your loved ones in a safe and secure way, simply call our Brandon lawyers at (813) 438-8503 to schedule an appointment.