Emails, text messages, airline miles, cloud storage, social profiles
How much wealth is represented by your digital assets?
“I don’t have any papers – everything is online.” Have you heard this line before? Well, that’s great until it isn’t.
Wealth is in jeopardy if professionals don’t know where your data and documents reside. Who will spend over 100 hours securing your trust and estate accounts?
What are Digital Assets?
Most people have over 150 different digital accounts. Questioning whether that’s you? Consider these categories:
- Not just your car, but what else is tied to your driver’s license?
- Email account(s)
- Including videos and photos
- Bank accounts, PayPal, Venmo, investments, pension
- Do you have a “virtual” business? What if items continue to sell on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or Poshmark?
- Social Security, phone number, estate documents, LifeLock (identity protection)
- Life and Auto
- On that note, are your digital assets covered?
- Amazon, Netflix, hotel rewards, airline miles, UPS, Uber (rideshare) – the list is endless!
- Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, to name a few.
Many institutions auto deduct from your account. In other words, they don’t send a bill (i.e., Amazon Prime, Netflix). As a result, assets are lost, stolen, and unrecoverable. And if you can’t gain access timely, the asset value decreases, assuming they’re accessible.
What Happens to Digital Assets After Life?
That depends on how quickly fraudsters pick up the information of a decedent. First, they read the obituaries and replicate their social accounts (with a tweak to your name or email). Then, BOOM! They are opening accounts on the decedent’s behalf.
If you pass, will payments still come into (i.e., Social Security) or out of (i.e., mortgage, credit card) your account?
What about your social profiles – how do you take those down or gain access to them? When you are living, designate a contact to access your accounts after you pass:
- Inactive account manager (Google)
- Digital Legacy (Apple)
- Legacy Contact for Memorialization (Facebook, Instagram)
Social sites don’t make this easy to find in your profile. However, it’s not easy to get a court order for a fiduciary to access your account(s) after the fact.
How To Secure Your Digital Assets
It’s easy to lose track of intangible assets. Make an inventory while living and revisit it often. Consider performing a routine discovery process: Crypto? Patents? Web domains? Include all of it!
Look for escheated property while living.
Remember that using a password manager isn’t a plan to protect your assets. These are helpful while living. But, password sharing is not a legal means to access the decedent’s account. The court may look at this as impersonation, which could invalidate someone else’s access.
If you use a password manager, export your credentials and save them in a secure place. Whether in hard copy or cloud-based vault storage (i.e., Everplans), make sure someone you trust knows the location.
When Should You Discuss Digital Assets?
Consider discussing this annually with those you trust while living and at least annually.
Who to Turn To
Ease the transition for your loved ones by protecting your assets and identity, finding hidden wealth, and closing unnecessary accounts. This applies to all financial and social accounts.
Keep a list of family and professional contacts (i.e., estate attorney, financial advisor, insurance) needed for notification. Review wills and trusts periodically with your estate attorney. Be sure your estate documents incorporate tangible and digital fiduciary roles.
- As soon as you pass, identity theft protection subscriptions EXPIRE.
- Wealth preservation and wealth transfer take time.
- Online notification processes take FOREVER (Google, Facebook, Apple).
- Estate value is stored both in intangible AND tangible formats.
Why Should You Secure Digital Assets
Let’s conclude with seven reminders as to why you should create a plan for your digital assets:
- Usernames, domains, and patents generate income.
- Photos, videos, and emails have sentimental value.
- Private business partnerships and retirement accounts may be stolen.
- Bank accounts and escheated property remain unclaimed.
- Digital wallets contain value and are often forgotten.
- Fraudsters impersonate decedents and steal.
- Digital assets are easily and illegally transferred to new owners without notice.
Create a gift for the next generation by planning for a meaningful afterlife for your digital assets. Contact us today to make sure you have a plan in place.