When it comes to estate planning and will agreements, some things haven’t changed at all. Other things, like including digital assets in your estate planning, have. In the digital age, people can’t forget to include these assets in the planning process, because everything from bank accounts to your online reputation and presence could be at stake if you don’t plan accordingly.
Estate planning is critical for many people, but in particular for high-net-worth individuals. And assets that exist in the digital sphere are just as important as those that take up space in your investment portfolio or the walls of your residence(s).
Consider: you’ve bought up website domain names that reflect your business or personal profiles, but don’t include them for estate planning purposes, like in your will. That’s the sort of thing your next of kin will have to deal with after you’re gone, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to hold onto those things or manage them effectively if you haven’t planned accordingly.
Intellectual property, social media profiles, blogs, and online accounts with points or rewards in them could all be at stake when it comes to the inclusion — or exclusion — of digital assets in your estate planning. And none of that even gets into online banking and trade. It’s not even as simple as making sure those accounts are accounted for — you also have to think about digital assets like your PayPal account, which is likely connected to your bank, or any accounts that are connected to credit cards.
Once you fall down that rabbit hole, it’s clear that your online presence and digital assets are probably more extensive than you may realize.
Konrad Malik, who has been practicing estate law for 26 years, has plenty of experience with estate planning. His legal practice focuses on various areas of estate law, and he knows the intricacies of this sort of planning and management. Malik says being prepared is at the heart of any sort of estate planning — and digital asset management is no different.
“Preparation really is important. With the inclusion of digital assets, estate planning is becoming increasingly complicated and people are more likely to forget key assets in documents like wills and trusts. It helps to have the guidance of an expert,” Konrad Malik explained.
And Kelly Pedersen, founder of Caissa Wealth Strategies in Minneapolis, says you have to make sure you don’t just plan for these assets to be included in your estate planning, but that you have to plan to manage these assets the right way. For example, when it comes to online logins, she says you should use a password manager program and share that information with the executor of your will, but that you shouldn’t put login information or passwords in the will itself. It may seem obvious, but some may assume including the information there is their best bet.
“If you have the one password, that allows the executor to see all the sites that you log into on a daily basis,” Pedersen said. “It’s almost like having a digital net worth statement.”
You also have to decide who will have access to what after you’re gone. For example, who will have the right to look over all your old emails? Will anyone continue to cultivate your social media profiles or blogs after your death? Who will take ownership of your online banking or any accounts online that are connected to your finances?
These are all things to consider when it comes to including digital assets in your estate planning. it may be a brave new world, but it’s one that experts like Konrad Malik are ready to help you and your family navigate.