As smartphones have increased the amount of time we spend online, our virtual assets and personas have become as important as the real thing — if not more. Just think about it. The bills we pay, the things we purchase and the places we socialize are all on the web.
So, when updating your estate plan, you’d better make sure to consider these digital components of your life too!
The person you appoint as the executor of your estate will be charged with a multitude of responsibilities to completely settle it. The first of those tasks is to settle all of your debts. To do this, your executor may need access to certain online accounts you use to pay your bills and debts.
It’s possible for your executor to gain access to repay your debts without this information. However, they will probably need to provide a death certificate and order from the probate court. This can take time.
Choosing to make provisions in your will that lend the executor access to your accounts can significantly speed up the probate process. It’s best to work with a professional to establish these provisions properly since wills are a matter of public record.
Next, your executor will need to gift or liquidate your assets to distribute inheritances to your beneficiaries. If you have a significant amount of assets that exist virtually, such as movies, video games or e-books, you may want to consider whether these should be gifted to anyone.
Including digital assets in an inheritance will also likely involve relaying passwords to your loved ones. Some programs use a master password or keycode to allow access to all of your other various passwords. This may be one method you could discuss using to pass on these assets safely.
Those who are involved with social media should consider letting their loved ones know how to handle their accounts. Many social media sites handle these situations by allowing family members the option to memorialize their loved one’s account after they have passed.
However, if you would prefer that your account is hidden, made private or used to announce news involving next steps, your estate plan is a great place to express these wishes. Taking considerations such as these can also help your loved ones feel more assured about the best way to handle your digital assets.