Updated: Oct 4, 2021
Do you know what will happen to your digital assets when you die? That's what we're discussing in this post.
Most people don’t know what their digital assets are, let alone what will happen to them after they die. So, what are they?
Your digital assets may include your Facebook, Instagram, and Apple ID accounts, your cloud storage, your family pictures and videos, personal information and images, text messages, logins and passwords, online bank accounts, blogs/vlogs, cloud storage, online subscriptions or memberships, and cryptocurrency wallets, just to name a few. Your digital assets, and not just your devices, are part of your estate.
If your digital assets are part of your estate, who gets them when you die?
The short answer: your heirs or devisees. When your estate goes through probate, all your assets (including your digital assets) will end up with your heirs according to Utah law or, if you died with a Will, with your devisees. But the process is not that simple.
You may not be aware of this, but you may not have 100% ownership in all your digital assets. It all depends on the service agreement (remember those pages you quickly looked through just to get to the bottom of the page so you could check the signature box and get to the next page? That’s your service agreement!) you “signed’ when you accepted the online or digital services. Service agreements vary greatly and are updated from time to time (you’ve probably accepted these updates a few times and don’t even remember doing so or what the updates were about).
By now, most companies have addressed digital assets of deceased users. For example, Facebook has added an option to name someone to look after our account after you die called “Legacy Contact”. Google has done the same and it is called Inactive Account Manager. Apple, as you probably anticipated, made things a bit more difficult. In order to obtain access to a deceased loved one’s Apple ID account without having the password, you need a court order with very specific language and information even if you have been appointed the estate’s Personal Representative. But this process is quite smooth. A hearing with no objections will only last a few seconds, and the order will be issued shortly after, or possibly even on the same day.
How do you avoid all this trouble?
The answer is quite simple. Plan for the future by doing the following:
For each of your digital assets, check their website and account options to make sure you have designated a person you trust to have access to it. Create a cheat sheet for your loved ones that include all the websites, security questions and answers, and the current password. Remember to update it regularly whenever you change a password.
If you have a Will, make sure to add your digital assets to your Last Will and Testament. Be specific and include who gets access to whatand include logins and passwords if necessary. And don’t forget to update this information regularly. You may even want to include a digital Executor by naming someone you trust to be in charge of your digital legacy.
If you have a Trust, do the same as above. Add your digital assets to your trust and be specific by including which Beneficiaries get access to what. And don’t forget to include logins and passwords, instructions on how to find them.
If you don’t have a Will or estate plan, create a spreadsheet with all your logins and passwords, and websites or access portals, so your loved ones can have easy access to your digital assets when you die. This may not be easy to do since most of us are forced to change certain passwords regularly either because we forget them or because certain websites require us to do so. Let someone you trust know that such document exists and how to access it when you die.
At SKV, we always make sure to ask our clients to list their digital assets when preparing a will or trust. We also have experience obtaining access to certain digital assets and court orders. If you would like to start planning for the future today or need help obtaining access to a loved one’s digital assets, contact us today by calling us at (385) 334-4030 or by sending an e-mail to email@example.com. For more information on our probate and estate planning services, visit our blog: https://www.skvlegal.com/blog.