In today's digital age, our online presence, from social media accounts to digital photo libraries, plays a significant role in our lives. As we accumulate these types of accounts, it becomes crucial to consider them in our estate planning. This blog post will guide you through steps you can take to ensure your digital legacy is preserved and protected after you're gone.
Understanding Digital Assets
It’s important to understand what constitutes a digital asset. These can include:
- Social Media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) & LinkedIn
- Digital photos and videos
- Email accounts
- Online banking and investment accounts
- Websites or blogs that you own
- Digital music, books, and movie collections
Understanding Social Media Platform Policies
Each social media platform has its own policy for handling accounts of deceased users. You may want to reflect on what you want to happen to your social media profiles. Do you want to keep a memorialization where friends and family can share memories if the site allows or do you want your account permanently removed? Below is a quick summary of how each of the main four platforms handle legacy accounts, but you should always check their specific websites for any updated policy changes.
Facebook: Allows you to appoint a “Legacy Contact” on your main profile who can manage your memorialized account or opt to have your account permanently deleted after your death.
Instagram: Similar to Facebook, Instagram offers the option to memorialize an account or have it deleted.
X (Twitter): X (formerly Twitter) does not allow account management by someone else but relatives can request the deactivation of a deceased user’s account.
LinkedIn: Permits the closure of the account upon receiving a death notice and proof of death.
Managing and Protecting Your Digital Photo Legacy
Digital photos, whether stored on devices like an iPhone, in cloud services such as Apple iCloud or Google Photos, or uploaded to photo storage sites like Shutterfly, are invaluable parts of our digital legacy. They capture moments, memories, and emotions, making it crucial to consider their fate in your estate planning. Here’s a detailed approach to managing these digital assets, but again you should always check the provider’s terms and conditions for any updates.
Apple iCloud: Without explicit permission, Apple may not grant access to another person. They might, however, assist in deactivating an account.
Google Photos: Google’s Inactive Account Manager allows you to designate someone to access your data if your accounts become inactive.
Shutterfly and Similar Sites: Policies vary, but most require legal documentation for access or changes to be made to an account after a death.
Steps for Protecting Your Digital Assets
- Inventory Your Digital Assets
Start by making a comprehensive list of your digital assets. Include any login credentials and any important details related to these accounts.
- Decide the Future of Your Digital Assets
Determine what should happen to each digital asset. Do you want your social media profiles memorialized (if possible) or deleted? Should someone get access to your digital photo albums? Moving precious photos to an external drive may be a smart choice to ensure your family will have access. Make these decisions clear in your estate plan.
- Include Digital Assets in Your Will or Trust
Work with an estate planning attorney to include specific instructions for your digital assets in your trust and ensure these powers are included in your trust. This step is crucial to ensure your wishes are legally recognized.
- Store Information Securely
Keep your digital asset inventory and related information in a secure but accessible location. Inform your Successor Trustee or a trusted family member where to find this information.
- Review and Update Regularly
Digital assets can change frequently. Regularly update your inventory and estate plan to reflect any new digital assets or changes in your wishes.
Incorporating digital assets into your estate planning is a vital step in safeguarding your digital legacy. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your online presence is managed according to your wishes, and your digital legacy is preserved. Remember, as the digital world evolves, so should your digital estate plan. Stay informed and adjust your plans as needed to keep your digital legacy secure.
If you, a friend, or family member need help establishing or restating an estate plan, please reach out to our Intake Department at 760-448-2220 or at https://www.geigerlawoffice.com/contact.cfm. We have offices in San Diego (Carlsbad) and Orange Counties (Laguna Niguel), but we can assist families throughout California as well.