How to Protect Your Digital Assets
By Megan Morrow
Published October 14, 2019
What do you think your digital assets – everything from your frequent flyer miles to your business website to your emails – are worth?
You might be surprised to hear that the value of digital assets for the average American exceeds $55,000, according to a recent study. While many of these assets cannot be bought or sold, they may still be meaningful to you and to your heirs.
Digital assets consist of any online information that you may have in the cloud or on a website. Many consumers actually have 100 or more accounts that include their own username and password, something that can be really unwieldy and confusing for heirs down the road. In fact, about half of caregivers lack legal authorization to access accounts, and data privacy laws prevent often companies from sharing that access.
It may be time to update your will
Do you have a business email with your name in it? It may be difficult or impossible to transfer that to someone else. Does someone know your Facebook username and password? If not, you may continue “living” on Facebook or other social media sites after your passing. How would you feel if your online photos and videos disappeared into thin air? All of these issues may indicate the need for updated documents.
Previously, many wills and estate plans did not take digital assets into account, although this is becoming more common. Your attorney and advisor can help you make provisions for your digital assets into the future. In addition, new digital estate planning tools such as Everplans can help you securely store online information.
Steps to preserving your digital legacy
In addition, the following three steps can help you organize and preserve your digital assets:
- Keep track of everything: Make a list of every site that contains valued information, including your log-in details and answers to security questions, and store this with your estate plan or a secure digital planning tool. Start with your devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets) and then consider email accounts, social media, file sharing, virtual currency, rewards programs, shopping services, online subscriptions, entertainment services for videos/books/music, photo sharing and storage, and anything else that matters to you. Update the list as your passwords change and accounts grow.
- Determine what goes where. While some things cannot be passed down (frequent flier miles, for instance, vary by airline), you can share your desire for passing on information, access and digital access.
- Create a letter of instruction. Write instructions for your executor that explains how your heirs can access your digital accounts and assets. Try to make this letter as explicit and clear as possible to avoid confusion in the future. A legal advance document can also prepare your family ahead of time.
Finally, it goes without saying: Back up your online documents and materials regularly as you give time and thought to sharing your digital assets.
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The material presented here is for information purposes only and is not to be considered an offer to buy or sell any security. This report was prepared from sources believed to be reliable but it is not guaranteed as to accuracy and it is not a complete summary of statement of all available data. Information and opinions are current up to the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. The purchase and sale of securities should be conducted on an individual basis considering the risk tolerance and investment objective of each investor and with the advice and counsel of a professional advisor. The opinions expressed by Ms. Morrow are strictly her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Herbert J. Sims & Co., Inc. or their affiliates. This is not a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell any particular investment. All investment involves risk and may result in a loss of principal. Investors should carefully consider their own circumstances before making any investment decision.