In the modern era, estate planning isn’t just about your physical assets. More and more assets are shifting to a digital space, and your Relational Estate Plan® needs to shift to embrace that change. To create a truly Relational Estate Plan®, you should consider what the digital space will look like in the coming years and how you can equip your loved ones to handle both your physical and digital assets.

Here are a few ways that you can help your family, friends, and other loved ones prepare to access your digital assets:

Understand What Assets You Have

As with any estate plan, you first need to understand your assets. Create an inventory of all of your digital assets so that your loved ones can know what you have and where to find it. Everything you do online – from banking to photo storage – should be noted on your inventory. Our Estate Guide and Inventory here at Relational Estate & Elder Law may be a great resource for you as you’re just getting started.

[Related Reading: How To Create an Estate Guide and Inventory]

It may seem excessive, and it may feel overwhelming, but half of the battle for your loved ones after you pass will be knowing what exactly you had in the first place. Some of the most critical assets to list on your inventory are banking information, business software, email accounts, social media accounts, and more. You might be surprised at how much you write in your digital asset inventory.

As you create your inventory, take the opportunity to close any accounts that you no longer use or have gone inactive. This will help you later and help your loved ones manage them after you pass.

Keep Your Passwords Separate

As you create your digital asset inventory, you should also take the opportunity to document any passwords or security questions that your loved ones may need to access the account. If you prefer to save this information digitally, you can save all your passwords and information in a password-protected document or through a service like LastPass. You can also write or print your passwords in a hard-copy document and store it in a safe place with your estate planning documents. Though they may differ or expire by the time your loved one needs them, storing your passwords in a safe place gives your loved ones a starting point to access your accounts. They may struggle to do so otherwise.

Allocate Access

When you review your estate plan, take another look at your digital assets and determine who you would like to be in charge of handling all of your digital assets when you pass. This could be as easy as choosing the same executor as your Will, or you may feel it’s better to choose someone different. Whoever you choose, ensure you let them know and explain how to access your information.

While the digital asset inventory lets your loved ones know where your assets are, it doesn’t necessarily permit them to access those accounts immediately. For example, because of your digital asset inventory, your loved one might know you have a checking account. However, until they officially become the Executor of your estate with the court, they do not have legal permission to access the account.

Some social media accounts, like Facebook or X, give you options of what to do with your account when you pass. Ensure that you designate what you want to happen with your social media accounts after you pass and communicate your desires with whoever you choose to have as your “digital executor.”

Make It Legal

Just as with creating a Will, Trust, or any other estate planning document, you need to take the steps to craft your desires into a legally binding document. Reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney. They can advise you on the best way to incorporate your digital assets into your estate plan relationally and comprehensively. That way, there is no question on what to do or where to go; it’s all laid out in your estate plan.

Times are rapidly changing, and the onslaught of new and different facets to an estate plan can feel overwhelming, especially in the digital space. Our Relational Estate & Elder Law team would love to work alongside you to create a Relational Estate Plan® that covers both your physical and digital assets.

Please contact us if you have any questions or want more information. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Joshua E. Hummer, Esq. is the founder of Relational Estate & Elder Law, and he has been a practicing attorney for over 15 years. While experienced in many parts of the law, Josh specializes in estate planning, estate administration, and elder law. He is licensed in both Virginia and West Virginia. Josh’s passion lies in helping people gain peace of mind about the future through holistic legal planning. When he isn’t meeting with clients or crafting legal documents, Josh enjoys spending time with his lovely wife, Jill, and their four vibrant children.

 

Disclaimer: The information you obtain in this post is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. This blog shares general best practices when navigating Virginia or West Virginia law, but you should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.