Social media accounts, cryptocurrencies, blog posts and songs purchased on iTunes AAPL, +6.98% – these are just some examples of common digital assets the average American may have.
But what they might not have: an estate plan for this property.
These digital assets, some of which could be valuable, don’t disappear when a person dies. Notifications still pop up on Facebook FB, +2.40%, copyrighted work still lives on desktops and domain names will stay active until their expiration dates.
Estate plans go far beyond wills, real estate and life insurance policies. “If you think about all the different things that might be online – in particular, all of those videos or photos or recipes that you’ve put online on a blog – there’s just a whole host of things people need to think about when we realize so much of our world happens completely online,” Abby Schneiderman, co-founder of Everplans, a software that organizes important documents and last wishes, said during a recent Barron’s Live event.
Individuals should be asking themselves what they want to happen to these accounts, as well as who should have access to them, Schneiderman said. She is also the co-author of “In Case You Get Hit by a Bus: How to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later.”
The consequences of not having a plan for these assets could be “a mess,” she said. Families may lose out on valuable assets because they don’t have access to online accounts (think cryptocurrencies or investments through robo advisers). They may also just find it hard to manage the necessities in the physical world, such as figuring out how to access the account for utilities or cable. There may also be sentimental items loved ones might not know about, such as written stories or old photos.
The first step should be rounding up a list of the most important assets – the ones that “hold the keys to your kingdom,” she said – and considering a password manager to keep everything secure.
After organizing these properties, users can start figuring out what to do with them, such as keeping social accounts up in the deceased’s honor (Betty White’s assistant has been sharing photos of the late actress since she passed away at the end of last year) or shutting them down after death.
The pandemic has been eye-opening for many Americans, who might not have yet experienced how an unexpected turn of events could affect their lives. Lack of organization or communication of these assets and last wishes could make a tumultuous time for a family just a little easier to manage. “It has become need-to-have planning,” Schneiderman said. “We just never know when things are going to happen and it’s really important to start thinking about things now.”