03/26/2013

How Do I Plan For My Digital Assets?

This new asset class has transformed the way we communicate with our family and friends and how we manage our financial assets.

Most of us give little thought about what will happen to our online presence after our passing. However, there are several things that you may want to do to ensure the protection of your digital assets. An example of someone who gave a lot of thought to this issue was Andy Olmsted. Olmsted was a popular blogger who was serving our country in Iraq. Olmsted left specific instructions for his friend to post a farewell blog in the event that he was killed in action. This blog is very moving and intense. Olmsted is the rare example of a person who created a plan.

Following are some steps that you may want to take with respect to your online accounts:

Step One: Inventory Your Digital Assets

This first step is counter-intuitive. Most of us are hesitant to create a digital asset inventory. However, without an inventory and instructions regarding your digital assets your trustee will not have any direction or guidance about what you want to happen to your digital assets.

Some items you may want to track are as follows:

* Online presence: Make a list of your website(s); blogs; facebook and other social media accounts. Also note where you store documents, photos or other files, listservs, and, groups or other sites to which you belong. Ultimately, the accounts that can be transferred will depend on the User Agreement you have with the provider. With respect to most photo storage sites - the images belong to your estate. However, with respect to iTunes and Apple Software, it depends on the licensing and user agreement.

* Online accounts: Be sure to track your online accounts, such as Amazon and other shopping accounts. Your trustee will need to know the names of the accounts so that your credit card information can be deleted and the account closed.

* Email accounts: Make a list of your email accounts that you use. Most of us have several accounts that we regularly use.

The inventory of digital assets must be carefully guarded. I suggest that you keep this written list in a locked, secure area. Make sure that you inform your trustee where this list is located along with the location of your estate planning documents.

Step Two: Inventory your Hardware and Software

Make a list of all hardware and software license numbers. This should be in a place easy to access. Be sure to update this list when you acquire new hardware or software.

Step Three: Provide Instructions

Let your trustee know what you want done with your social media sites. Do you want your Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, and Twitter followers notified? This is a good time to think about your wishes.

In response to these concerns, several companies now offer management services. Companies such as Legacy Locker, Datalnherit and Entrustet offer digital management services.

In this modern age, our concept of what is an assets has changed dramatically. Traditionally, we only think about our "tangible" assets; however, with the prevalence of digital assets in our lives this must be taken into account as well.