A Plan for Digital Assets
Every minute of every day, people are creating online accounts. The growth of social media is at an all-time high: at the time that this article was published, Facebook reported 2.0 billion monthly users, YouTube reported 1.5 billion users and Instagram, the fastest growing platform, reported 700 million. But what happens to all these accounts when someone passes away?
When creating an estate plan, people often overlook their digital assets – online accounts, blogs, social media handles and digital files. Many of these items cannot be left to others through a will or estate planning because individuals do not own their digital content. However, individuals can leave thorough instructions for an executor detailing what to do with digital assets after their passing.
What is included in an individual’s digital assets?
Items to consider include:
- Social media accounts, such as Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn
- E-mail accounts
- Blogs and licensed domain names
- Seller’s accounts, such as Amazon or eBay
- Financial accounts
What are an individual’s rights to digital accounts?
There is a misconception that individuals own the online accounts they create. Most digital accounts belong to a specific individual through license only. When that person passes, the contract ends and the business that hosts the account has control over what happens to it.
For example, Facebook will change the status of a profile to “Memorial” for family and friends to continue viewing the profile or leave a message to their loved one. Some companies will delete or deactivate the account. Other companies won’t notice inactivity for some time, giving the executor the ability to carry out the deceased’s wishes for the account, such as leaving a last status or message, deleting certain posts or deleting the account altogether.
How to leave instructions
Leaving thorough instructions and login information for the executor is the easiest way to ensure that last wishes are carried out for digital assets. This information can be stored in a letter with the other estate planning documents.
Have a question about digital assets and estate planning? Contact Alexander and Associates for a FREE consultation! Alexander and Associates offers clients estate planning and over 20 years of experience in wealth building, estate planning and administration, probate business and litigation.