In today’s digital age, most people have an online presence. In many cases, this presence is extensive. From photographs to online subscriptions to social media profiles, there are many digital assets that need to be dealt with when a person dies.
Traditional estate planning typically does not address the digital estate. In fact, in California, your executor does not have the power to access your online accounts, even just to close them. In order to prevent your online presence from continuing on without you after you’re gone, you need to take steps to appoint a digital executor who will protect your digital estate when you’re no longer here to manage it yourself.
What Is a Digital Executor?
A digital executor is someone you appoint to manage your digital assets after you die. Your digital executor does not replace your traditional executor, although the same person can play both roles if you so choose. California does not currently recognize digital executors as a legal matter; rather, the person you name should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes with respect to your digital presence.
Either through a will or by some other means, you give someone control over your digital estate by providing:
- A list of your digital accounts
- Instructions for how to access them, including usernames and passwords
- Guidance for how you want each account to be handled when you’re gone
With this information in hand, your digital executor will be able to officially wrap up all of your affairs that may not be addressed in your traditional estate planning documents.
Chances are, you have a lot more digital assets than you think. Some of the most common include:
- Email accounts
- Social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
- Photo- or video-sharing accounts, such as Flickr or YouTube
- Retail accounts, such as Amazon, iTunes, or eBay
- Blogs or personal webpages
- Music sites, such as Spotify or Pandora
- Online payment accounts, such as Paypal or Venmo
- Bank, investment, or other financial accounts that you manage online
- Utility and other bills that you pay online
- Online data storage sites, such as Google Docs or Dropbox
The list could go on and on. There is seemingly no end to the number of things that people manage online these days. Having a plan in place for dealing with them all after you’re gone is a crucial part of wrapping up your affairs.
How an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
Digital estate planning is a new concept for the 21st century. With new technology emerging every day, and the laws on digital estate planning constantly changing to adapt to the digital era, making a digital estate plan and staying on top of it are essential parts of managing your affairs. Consulting a lawyer who is experienced with the ever-changing landscape of digital estate planning will put your mind at ease and ensure that your digital footprint is handled properly after your death.
At the Christopher B. Johnson Law Office, we have over 18 years of experience providing estate planning services to the people of Pasadena, and we are well-versed in handling the new estate planning needs of the modern digital age. If you have questions about naming a digital executor or other aspects of digital estate planning, we’re here to help. Contact us today to discuss your situation.