If you have either never made a will or your current will doesn’t include digital estate planning provisions, it’s important to promptly address this estate planning need. Over the past several years, it is becoming increasingly apparent that navigating a deceased person’s estate administration duties without digital estate planning guidance can be a nightmare for surviving loved ones. To avoid burdening your loved ones in this way, you’ll want to either create a comprehensive will or have an attorney add digital estate planning provisions to your existing estate planning documentation.
Why Make This Effort?
As an experienced wills lawyer – including those who practice at the Law Group of Iowa – can explain in greater detail, a digital estate plan allows a will creator to specify exactly how they want their online footprint to be managed in the wake of their death or their incapacitation due to illness or injury.
You may be thinking, “Is that really necessary?”. Especially if you don’t store complex intellectual property assets, you don’t invest in cryptocurrency, and you don’t run an online business, this concern is understandable.
To underscore the necessity of digital estate planning, take a moment to list every single site that you access online that requires login credentials, from social media platforms to your bank’s online portal. Now, list everything that you upload to the Cloud, from photographs to invoices for your side hustle. Finally, list every other electronic platform you engage with, from email to texts. Ask yourself: Do you want your spouse, children, or mother to have access to every single one of these accounts? And if you do, would they know how to access them and what you’d like them to do with whatever they find?
Your Evolving Digital Estate Planning Needs
At present, the most pressing concern you face is the need to put a digital estate plan into place. Any given individual may be living their last day on Earth without knowing it, so you’ll want to be proactive in making this effort. The more diligently you “put your affairs in order,” the less stress your loved ones will be forced to endure when managing your estate in the event of your death or incapacitation.
To that end, you may or may not want to include alternative terms for how your accounts should be managed after your death vs. if you are temporarily incapacitated – say, you’re in a coma following a car accident – but you are expected to recover. Depending upon what you do online, you may have different online footprint management needs on a temporary basis then you will once you’ve passed away.
You’ll also want to speak with an attorney about how to go about effectively updating your estate plan over time, as your online footprint evolves, you acquire, transfer, or sell digital assets, you open and close accounts, etc. You may even want to name a different executor at some point. Understanding how to keep your digital estate plan current will better ensure that your wishes are honored whenever your loved ones are in a position to honor them.