This is the final article in a 5 part series, co-written by attorney, Steven Andrew Jackson, Esq. and Mari Peterson of Compass Project Partners, a business strategic planner. In this series we have explored the convergence of death and technology on estate planning and administration.
Click here to read Part 1: Death, Digital Assets & the Law: Introduction
Click here to read Part 2: The Estate Planning Lawyer’s Perspective
Click here to read Part 3: Death, Digital Assets & the Law: Part 3 – The Uniform Law Commission Solution
Click here to read Part 4: What can you do?
Tools and Resources for managing your Digital Assets in Estate Planning
Online Tools – Important Considerations
There are several online tools for managing your important documents and managing your digital assets. While these provide a fast and convenient, often easy-to-follow way to manage your important documents, there are important factors to consider before signing up. Before we list these resources, we ask you to consider the following factors:
- Cost – most are relatively inexpensive but maintaining the cost, either monthly or annually, can build up and what if there is a lapse?
- Durability – startup companies promising solutions to every day problems are cropping up every month. Research the Internet Company you choose and check their viability for lasting a long time. Even the best companies can go under in our quickly changing tech world.
- Support – Some of us are comfortable with getting technical help via chat or email while others prefer at least a voice on the other end of a phone. Determine what kind of support you need before signing up.
- Backup & Access – Whoever you choose, be sure your lawyer or family member or someone close to you is aware and knows how to access. Otherwise, these important documents may stay forever locked up in the cloud.
Here is a list of online tools you may find useful:
How to create a Digital Estate Plan by Everplans ($75/year). This site offers everything you need to organize your important documents. It also includes a map showing the each state’s Health, Legal and End-of-Life Resources.
Estate Map ($66/first year and $24/subsequent years). This company is based in Minneapolis, MN and can be used by individuals or lawyers.
Complete List of Online Services. The Digital Beyond provides an extensive list of online services for organizing your digital life. Check them out and don’t forget our considerations above when choosing or exploring a service.
Of course, we prefer the do-it-yourself option where your important documents are secured in a physical location, your online accounts are inventoried with secure passwords and your key family professionals (lawyer, financial advisor or accountant, etc.) are aware of these documents and how to access them. Professionals are held to a higher standard of privacy and regulation providing a certain level of protection to individuals and their families whereas your family members or close friends may not be aware of what they can or cannot do. A ‘DIY’ process requires a bit more time but will also save you money and headaches in the long run.
The American Bar Association recommends a simple 5 step plan for managing your digital assets. The following is a brief outline:
- Inventory your digital assets – including hardware (devices), software, file structure description, online accounts, and work information
- Identify appropriate help – this may not always be your lawyer or financial advisor especially if they are not tech savvy.
- Provide for access – where are your passwords kept and how do you access that information?
- Provide instructions – what do you want to be done with these accounts? Do you want them archived, deleted or not accessed? Are there items you don’t want deleted or bequethed to someone? Do any of these accounts have value?
- Give appropriate authority – you may wish to designate someone with specific instructions on specific accounts
To read the entire 5 step plan for managing your digital assets, click here. As always, we recommend reviewing this and updating as appropriate.
Know What Happens
As we know, things online change constantly. We can’t keep up with all of them but you should be aware of what happens to the accounts you use. This infographic shared by the Digital Beyond and created by WebpageFx is an important lesson on what happens to your online presence after you die. Keep in mind, this infographic was created in 2014 and is definitely subject to change. It addresses what happens to your online profiles after you die.
For more information and research on this subject, visit the Digital Beyond website.
“The Digital Beyond is a blog about your digital existence and what happens to it after your death. We’re the go-to source for archival, cultural, legal and technical insights to help you predict and plan for the future of your online content.”