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  • Rebecca Barlow

Do you have a Digital Legacy Plan?

Updated: Feb 21

Tips for planning your digital legacy

One of the first steps you should take to get your digital  affairs in order is to take inventory of your digital assets.  The average person today has over 100 online accounts. Are they all really necessary? Do you really need to be a member of three different photo sharing and storage sites or could that be streamlined to one account?

Take the time to identify the digital assets you really need, that are valuable to you and that you would want transferred to loved ones, and consider shutting down accounts that are no longer used or that could be merged. Take a look at your digital assets that are most important to you and look at if and how those assets can be transferred at death to ensure they are managed in accordance with your wishes.  

Other helpful tips to consider when creating a digital plan:

  • Back up digital assets stored in a cloud, such as photos, videos, important documents etc., onto a hard drive that you want shared with your loved ones, as most cloud services terminate access at death- with the exception of FOREVER, which we recommend..

    • FOREVER is an online photo, media and document storage that we highly recommend. FOREVER guarantees to protect your photos for your lifetime plus 100 years. It allows sharing with friends and family as well as legacy planning for your valuable info.

    • is another valuable source that we highly recommend to secure and organize important family information with your loved ones and advisors to save time and money and enjoy peace of mind.

  • Leverage online planning tools offered by digital account providers such as Facebook’s memorialization and legacy features.

  • And above all, maintain open dialogue with your executor and family members and disclose what digital assets you have and where they are located.

What Are Digital Assets?

The term "digital assets" refers to all of the digital files and online accounts you own or use on your computers, phones, tablets, e-readers, and other personal devices. Digital assets include social media accounts, digital photos and videos, email accounts, online financial accounts, software and copyright licenses, and more.

Digital Asset Executor

Designate your executor or another loved one as a legacy contact or inactive account manager for a particular account, such as your Facebook, Apple, and Google accounts. Not all major companies offer this option, and each company varies in what level of access it offers your legacy contact, but using it where it's offered can provide additional security in making sure someone has access.

Can My Digital Assets Pass Through My Will?

What types of digital files and assets can you leave to loved ones through your will or living trust? Digital assets include a huge range of files and records that we use in our daily lives, and not all of it can be passed on. Learn which assets can be transferred to an inheritor, and what to do with the other types of digital assets that you leave behind.

Which Online Accounts and Digital Files Can You Leave to Inheritors?

You own some of your digital assets (for example, digital photos you took), but other digital assets are for your use during your lifetime only (for example, your social media accounts). With the former, you can make a gift of the digital asset to your loved ones in your will or living trust. With the latter, you can't—but that doesn't mean you won't have any control at all over what happens to that asset or online account when you die.

Digital Assets That Can Pass Through Your Will or Living Trust

As a general rule, all digital assets that you own and that are transferrable will be included in your estate when you die. You can use your will or living trust to determine who will get such digital assets. Transferable digital assets certainly include anything that is worth money, but they also include things that may have a more sentimental value. If you own it and you can transfer it, you should be able to include it in your will or living trust.

Examples of digital assets you can leave to a beneficiary:

  • digital music you've purchased

  • digital photos or videos you kept in an online album

  • funds in a PayPal or Venmo account

  • cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin

  • funds owed to you by an online store like Amazon or Etsy

  • frequent flyer miles (maybe, depending on the policy of the issuing company)

If you don't name a specific beneficiary for these digital assets (for example by explicitly stating in your will that you leave your digital photos to your children), they will pass to your residual beneficiary or beneficiaries.

You might also be able use your will or living trust to transfer digital assets that you have licensed, like a domain name or a copyright, but this depends on whether the terms of the licensing agreement allow transfer at death. Check your agreements, and see a lawyer if you have concerns.

Digital Assets That Can't Pass Through Your Will or Living Trust

Many of your digital assets won't pass through your will or living trust—usually because you don't have the right to transfer them. Even if they have a real value to you or your family, if you don't own them or have the right to transfer them at death, you can't pass them through your will or living trust. A clear example of this is your email and social media accounts. You don't own those accounts, you just have a license to use them—and your inability to transfer your account to another person is limited by the terms you agreed to when you opened the account.

Examples of digital assets that won't pass through your will:

  • your email and social media accounts

  • subscription accounts like Netflix or Spotify

  • apps on your phone or tablet (and the data they contain), and

  • non-transferable domains that you've licensed.

If you can't leave your email account or social media account to someone, you can still leave instructions with your executor or loved one about what you'd like done—for example, one final post, closing your account, and so on.

Giving Your Executor Access to Online Accounts

Regardless of whether or not your digital assets can be passed through your will or living trust, your executor will likely appreciate having access to your online accounts. When wrapping up your affairs, your executor will need to pay bills, transfer property, notify contacts of your death, and more, and having the ability to get into your accounts will make their job much easier.

Make a Plan for the Digital Assets You Care About

You can give your loved ones the information they'll need to go into your accounts and files and take final actions. If you fail to leave instructions and access information, your loved ones won't know your wishes and are unlikely to be able to get into your accounts.

The simplest way to do this is to first grant your executor the legal authority to handle your digital assets. You can do this in your will or living trust. Then you must take the additional step of leaving explicit login information (such as usernames and passwords) and directions about what to do. You can do this in a simple letter or spreadsheet, or you can get help from a program like Nolo's Quicken WillMaker, which allows you to make a will or living trust, as well as a letter to survivors. Keep the document with passwords in a secure place and make sure your executor knows where to find it. Or if you use a password manager (such as Dashlane, LastPass, 1Password, or Bitwarden) already, you can leave a document with the master password to your password manager. Limiting Access to Your Online Accounts and Digital Files.

Consult an attorney if you want to restrict your executor's access to your digital assets. Most states are increasing the rights of executors to access the digital assets of the deceased. As these laws develop, they could eventually make it possible for your executor to get into to your accounts even if you don't leave your login information. If you have digital assets that you don't want your executor to access, get help from an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you protect your privacy.

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