Why It Matters
Digital estate planning is about ensuring that your online assets are handled according to your wishes after you're gone. This matters for several compelling reasons:
- Makes Life Easier For Your Loved Ones: Digital estate planning makes life easier for your family and loved ones and saves immense time. Without a plan, accessing and managing your online accounts and assets can be daunting and complex during an already emotional time.
- Protecting Personal and Sensitive Data: Your digital assets may contain profoundly personal or sensitive information. Clear instructions in your estate plan can help protect this information and ensure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
- Preserving Memories: Beyond personal and business aspects, consider the memories you've shared on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. These moments, often stored exclusively online, may not have backups elsewhere. Digital estate planning helps preserve these cherished memories.
- Executors Can Access, Close or Transfer Online Assets More Simply: You may have accounts that need closing, domains or websites for business that need to be accessed or memories from social media accounts you’d like to share or preserve. This can be a very time-consuming task without being given clear instructions for access.
New & Evolving Laws
Navigating the digital landscape in terms of estate planning can be challenging. Account verification processes vary from platform to platform, and the complexities extend to cryptocurrency accounts, as well as personal and business digital assets.
Items Designated/Classified As Digital Estate (Victoria, October 2023)
Understanding what constitutes your digital estate is crucial. This encompasses a wide range of assets, including but not limited to:
- Online accounts on social networking platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Email accounts.
- Cryptocurrency holdings.
- Online gaming accounts.
- Digital files stored in the cloud or on hard storage devices.
- Licences for music, videos, or movies from service providers like Apple iTunes and Spotify.
- Blogs, websites and domain names.
- Digital access to financial accounts.
- Intellectual property, including trademarks and copyrighted material.
It’s worth going through any online assets you have, and listing what you would like to happen with each one. It’s then necessary to ensure that anyone you wish to have access to has clear instructions on how to do so in the event of your death or inability to access them for yourself.
The Unique Nature of Digital Assets
Digital assets present unique challenges. Your executor, during the administration of your estate, or your lawyer (while you are living), may need to access and manage these assets. This requires a comprehensive strategy to ensure your wishes are carried out effectively.
Are Your Digital Assets Valuable?
Digital assets can hold various forms of value, including personal, sentimental, and financial.
Consider the following scenarios:
- Business-related digital assets, like domain names, blogs, or intellectual property, may have significant commercial value.
- Social media influencers and content creators may generate income from their online presence, adding financial value to their accounts.
- Personal memories and cherished moments stored online are invaluable for sentimental reasons.
What Happens to Your Social Media Accounts When You Pass Away?
The handling of social media accounts upon death varies between platforms. For example, Facebook's default process is to memorialise the account, preserving it for existing connections to view and share memories. However, nominating a "legacy contact" in your Facebook settings allows someone to manage your account according to your wishes.
It’s worth checking in with each platform to understand what the standard process is and what information would be needed by a third party to gain access.
Effective Digital Estate Planning
To safeguard your digital assets in case of incapacity or death, consider these steps:
1. Identify Your Digital Assets: Create a comprehensive list of your digital assets.
2. Review Terms of Service: Understand the terms and conditions of your online accounts - and that they may change over time.
3. Update Your Will and Power of Attorney: Ensure your estate planning documents account for your digital assets.
In the digital age, the significance of digital estate planning cannot be overstated. Protecting your online assets, ensuring your loved ones can access and manage them, and preserving your digital legacy are crucial considerations. By staying informed and seeking professional advice, you can navigate the complexities of digital estate planning and leave a clear roadmap for your digital assets.
Get Some Advice
Considering the complexities of digital estate planning, seeking professional advice is wise. Legal experts specialising in wills and probate can assist in creating clauses in your will and guiding you on managing a deceased estate when no digital wishes have been left.
Please contact our team for in-depth insights and guidance on digital estate planning in Victoria.