What is My Digital Estate?

On top of tangible assets such as houses and cars in the Will, probate lawyers have been stressing the importance of accommodating for intangible assets in the Will in order for families to reach complete closure.

Digital assets are commonly defined as any content that is stored digitally or any online accounts that are owned by an individual. It is almost impossible to say you have no digital assets, nor is there a way to avoid ‘signing up’ for an online account – you’re probably reading this article on a tablet or a laptop, which should mean that you have an e-mail account at the very least. Most of the accounts you currently hold have a replicated blueprint in the Internet cloud, but the more obvious electronic change include e-statements from banks and e-bills from service providers.

These assets are best managed by undergoing Digital Estate Planning – this is an additional stage to your normal estate planning. This step is to ensure any valuable assets locked up in the cloud, will be appropriately managed by the people you trust after passing. According to an online legal service survey, over 63% of individuals do not know what will happen to their digital assets when they die. It is thus highly recommended for every individual to consider Digital Estate Planning for secure protection for their ‘digital kingdom’.

“Why is this important? Surely my online accounts hold no value?” – this myth is too often thought by the layperson. As a result, many people fall short of reasoning and don’t follow up with including their digital assets in planning. There is in fact, a lot of potential value in one’s digital identity or property. Imagine receiving notifications from social media platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn about a deceased loved one’s birthday – being constantly reminded of their death is not a pleasant thought, especially when one is in grieving.

Another serious consequence of leaving a ghost account after one’s death is the high risk of online identity theft. Identity theft ranges from hacking of social media accounts to opening fraudulent bank accounts made with liability to debt, particularly as many people store bank login details in their e-mail inbox. With these factors in mind, it is to one’s best interests to place their digital property within manageable reach for trusted individuals.

Planning your digital estate is the single most important way to allow the right people to properly manage your digitals after your passing. Imagine dying intestate – without including your digital estate in planning your will – there will be great difficulty for your designated Executor to fulfil your last wishes. It’s definitely not too late to start your Digital Estate Planning right now. Just follow these simple 5 steps:

  1. Take some time to locating and identifying your current online accounts is a good first step in planning your digital estate. Remember digital assets are: ‘anything that is stored in a binary form and comes with the right to use’ (Dictionary.com) including digital files, audible content and images.
  2. Record them on a centralised, online/written platform that will securely store all your private information into a database. Conduct some thorough research to ensure that the platform will only disclose the password details when there is evidence from family to indicate one’s death.
  3. Essentially, there should be an online and a print version of your instructions for your digital assets, collated onto the one page that can simply be attached to your already existing Will. Some information that you should considering including in the digital estate planning may be deciding what you want to do with these digital assets. This could include your desire to memorialise your late Facebook account or to close down your online share accounts.
  4. To make this process easier, you may want to also designate a technologically-knowledged Digital Executor to your accounts, to help you organise distribution of digital assets among beneficiaries – or for them to implement closure to all of your digital assets.
  5. Take action now to protect your digital assets before someone else exploits it.

Article courtesy of   eClosure

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