Most people in California have some awareness of the importance of having an estate plan, in part due to the recent passing of notable people who did not have one and the chaos that resulted around the resolution of their estates. What people may not be aware of is the necessity to include one’s digital life in estate assets when creating a comprehensive plan. Digital footprints have grown considerably and failure to incorporate it can cause one’s heirs unnecessary angst, inconvenience and possible financial cost.
One’s digital footprint consists of any and all accounts that require a log in and passwords to access. This can include email accounts, social media accounts, financial accounts including retirement and brokerage accounts as well as cloud storage accounts. Digital devices such as smart phones and lap top computers are also considered digital assets.
When one contemplates incorporating all of this into an estate plan it may appear to be an overwhelming task considering the number of apps that most people have access to. The first step to simplify the process is to inventory all of the digital assets. With a comprehensive list that one can review, the task of deciding who should have access may become less intimidating. It is important to include all pertinent information such as web address, account name, account number, username and password.
Estate planning, like anything else, adjusts and changes with the times. A person in California who is considering establishing an estate plan, or revising an existing one, could benefit from consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can assist in a thorough review and accounting of all aspects of one’s estate assets, including the digital ones.