Do you know what will happen to your digital assets when you die? That's what we're discussing in this post.
Do you know what will happen to your digital assets when you die?
Most people have never thought about what will happen to their Facebook, Instagram, or Apple ID accounts, for example, after they pass away. Social media accounts are part of what is called digital assets.
Your digital assets may include 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 cryptocurrencies, just to name a few. Your digital assets, and not just your devices, are part of your estate. Unless you have figured out a way to avoid probate altogether (for more information on how to avoid probate, see: https://www.skvlegal.com/post/the-basics-of-estate-planning), your estate will include all your digital assets.
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 gets probated, 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 to begin with. 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 that or what they 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 the process is quite smooth and a hearing with no objections will last seconds and the order will be issued shortly after or on the same day even.
So, 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.
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 what and 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 if necessary or instructions on how to find those to make sure the information is always up-to-date.
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 easily achieved 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. Finally, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on our probate and estate planning services, visit our blog: https://www.skvlegal.com/blog.