Digital Estate Planning
Nowadays, so much of our lives take place online. That means that most people have a portfolio of digital assets. These digital assets can include anything from your PayPal account to your LinkedIn profile. We don’t often think about what will happen to our digital assets and accounts when we’re no longer here to manage them.
It’s important to plan for your digital footprint after you have gone to prevent any financial or sentimental losses.
In 2016, the Maryland legislature passed the Maryland Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (MFADAA). This has been codified in the statute in Md. Est. & Trusts Section 15, Subtitle 6. MFADAA authorizes you to designate someone in your Will, Trust or Power of Attorney to access and manage your digital assets upon your death or incapacity.
While that’s great news, what happens if the person you designate does not know what digital accounts and assets you have? We recommend taking an inventory of all your digital assets so you can help your loved ones protect your estate, identity and precious memories.
Your list of digital assets may include:
Social media accounts
Online financial accounts
Cell phone apps
Loyalty program benefits
E-commerce accounts, like Amazon
Another challenge is that most (hopefully all) of your accounts are protected by private passwords, and there are data privacy and authorization concerns. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can ensure your digital assets can be handled and accessed after your death.
Some service providers have begun to provide tools to allow you to designate what happens to your assets after you die. For example, Apple iOS 15.2 devices allow you to name a “Legacy Contact” for your Apple ID. You can designate one or more people to have access to the data in your Apple account after your death. The data may include photos, messages, notes, files, apps you’ve downloaded, device backups, and more. Certain information, like books or subscriptions you purchased with your Apple ID, and data stored in your Keychain – like payment information, passwords, and passkeys – can’t be accessed by your Legacy Contact. For more information, you can visit Apple’s website here.
If a specific service provider does not have a tool or designation available, your legal documents (Will, Trust, or Power of Attorney) can determine the handling of the account or asset, and name a fiduciary responsible for the handling.
If neither of the first two scenarios apply, the terms-of-service agreements with different service providers may apply, or they may have specific policies on how to handle accounts once the original owner has passed.
So here’s what you should do to create your digital estate plan.
You should continuously back up all digital assets, including photos and important documents, and ensure that a trusted person can easily access them when the time comes.
Name a fiduciary. Ensure your legal documents name somebody or authorize your intended digital custodian to access and manage your digital assets.
Inventory your logins. Make a list of all of your usernames and passwords, store it in a safe place, and inform a trusted person where they can find them.
Outline your wishes. Do you want your social media accounts to be deleted immediately, or do you want the contents to be archived?
Digital assets are still a relatively new phenomenon, and the laws that deal with them are changing quickly. Even if you already have your estate planning documents, you need to check in regularly to ensure that your plan accommodates for your digital property. Consider giving us a call and scheduling a free consultation so we can help review your documents and ensure you are protected.