With the emergence of technology that becomes more and more a part of people’s everyday lives, it is important to keep these digital assets maintained for future usage. While people may not think about these assets—such as social media accounts, financial accounts, and emails—when drafting an estate plan, Texans should create a digital estate plan. This document identifies who should handle this information after the drafter has passed away and what to do with these digital accounts. Because this is an emerging area of estate planning law, below is an explanation of the steps Texans should take to create a digital estate plan with the help of an experienced attorney.
1. Make a List of Every Digital Asset
The first step in creating a digital estate plan is to make a list of every digital asset a person owns—this includes social media accounts, online banking accounts, and passwords to any website. As a part of this list, people should mark where the data is stored, whether online, on the cloud, or on a physical device, and their username and password for the accounts. This inventory will allow the executor—the person who will have access to the digital assets and follow the instructions according to the drafter’s wishes—to have all the relevant information at their fingertips.
2. Decide What Will Happen to the Digital Assets and Who Should Serve as Executor
The next step of the digital estate plan process is to determine how each asset should be handled after the drafter’s passing. While the drafter may want some of the assets to be transferred to family members—such as the bank account records—they may want others to be erased. While this may seem simple, it can often be more complicated in certain cases. If the person has points for an online store, should the person receiving the digital asset be able to redeem them? The more specific a drafter can be in the estate plan, the better.
As part of the digital estate plan, the drafter needs to name a digital executor. As explained above, this person will settle the digital estate plan according to the drafter’s wishes. The executor should be highly organized, tech-savvy, and willing to follow the drafter’s intentions per the estate plan.
3. Formalize the Estate Plan
After the digital estate plan is drafted—following the above steps with the assistance of an attorney—this sensitive information should be stored with their estate planning attorney. They will then have access to it at any point if the drafter decides to make changes in the future. The final, and most critical, step is to formalize the digital estate plan in a legally binding document. Most estate planning attorneys will advise clients to name the digital executor in their will, along with specifying the location of the asset inventory.
Because digital estate plans are an ever-evolving matter of law, individuals creating these plans should contact an experienced estate planning attorney who can assist them with the process.
Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney
If you or a loved one is interested in creating a digital estate plan, contact the experienced Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. We understand the importance of creating an estate plan—both digital and otherwise—for you and your family, so we take the time to ensure the plan fits your needs. Managing your digital assets can be confusing, so we are here to demystify the process and help in any other way we can. To speak with one of our attorneys and to schedule a free consultation, give us a call at 713-333-8900 today.