Every one of us needs to have a Will as part of our estate planning. Please refer to our other posts to find The 4 Fundamental Steps to Drafting a Legally Binding Will and The Other Things to Consider When Drafting a Will.
Increasingly and more importantly, we need to also include a digital estate plan, a plan for our digital assets, in our estate planning.
What Are Digital Assets?
Digital Assets generally fall into one of two main categories:
- Data, such as documents, photos, audio or video recordings or other property, stored digitally on a device such as a computer, laptop, tablet or other mobile devices; and
- Digital Profiles, such as email accounts, online accounts, social media accounts, or any other valuable accounts. Please note that value can be derived from what possessions gives access to, for example, online financial accounts.
- Banking and other financial accounts, including share portfolios
- Cryptocurrencies, ICO or other blockchain investments.
- Files, photos or music on your computer, on your mobile phone or in cloud storage
- iTunes or Amazon Prime accounts, music or (Kindle) ebooks
- Australian Government Department of Human Services or online Private health accounts
- Reward programs, for example, frequent flyers, hotel memberships or FlyBuy points and Qantas Frequent Flyers or Virgin Velocity points
- Social media profiles such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, PayPal, eBay or Gumtree
- Websites or other online sites that you may own or manage
What Happens If You Don’t Have Digital Estate Plan?
We are increasingly seeing the problems of dying without digital estate planning. Digital laws are not necessarily controlled, or more importantly, known. For added complexity, an online business can change its policies or processes as they please.
How many of you have gotten a reminder or Facebook Friendaversary (friendship anniversary) notification? An Oxford study calculated that Facebook can have as much as 5 billion deceased members by 2100 (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2053951719842540).
The Essential Steps to Creating a Digital Estate Plan
1. Make a List…
This is no small task. Look at the list above and think thoroughly about each category. Some will come to you quickly, like your Facebook profile, but others will be more difficult.
Don’t forget to write down the access information like the associated email address, your username and passwords.
You will need to update this table every time something changes, so remember it whenever you sign up for a new digital product or change your passwords.
2. Who and What?
There is one central role in a digital estate plan, and that is the Digital Executor. You will need to appoint a Digital Executor who, much like your Will executor, will be responsible for making sure your wishes are adhered to.
Besides the Digital Executor, you will need to decide what you want to happen to each of your digital assets.
But others may not be so simple. For example, would you prefer for your online shop to be closed off immediately, or would you prefer for your remaining stock to be sold or written off before the store is closed?
3. Store and Update!
You need to keep information such as your usernames and passwords in a safe place that is accessible to your Digital Executor when the time comes.
To be extra safe, you should also mention the existence of your Digital Estate Plan in your Will; however, it is probably not recommended that it is a part of your Will. This is because you will need to maintain your Digital Asset register regularly.
The crucial people must know about your Digital Estate Plan.
Please note that you should create a separate Digital Estate Plan if you have a business with an online presence – and what business doesn’t have one of them nowadays?