When it comes to estate planning, most people don’t think about digital assets. In the past, the focus has been on traditional forms of property like real estate, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. The reality is, however, that most people today have far more digital assets than they might even realize.
In today’s digital age, digital estate planning has become an essential part of planning for the future. Along with appointing a traditional executor, you need to appoint a digital executor to manage your online footprint after you’re gone. Failing to do so will not just be inconvenient for your loved ones, it will leave them without the ability to access your digital assets after your death.
A digital executor is someone you appoint to specifically handle your digital assets after you die. Your digital executor does not replace your traditional executor, although they can be the same person.
You give a digital executor control over your digital estate by providing that person with a list of the accounts you want managed, instructions for accessing them, and guidance as to what’s to be done with them. Only with this information can a digital executor officially wrap up all of your affairs.
Most people have a lot more digital assets than they realize. They may include:
- Email accounts
- Social media accounts
- Personal webpages or blogs
- Photo- or video-sharing accounts
- Online payment accounts
- Online storage sites
- Shopping accounts
- Music or other media subscription sites
This list is far from exhaustive. The important thing to realize is just how many assets will be left unattended if you fail to create a digital estate plan.
Under current California law, the executor of your estate has no authority to access your digital assets after you’re gone, even just to shut them down. In fact, California does not actually recognize digital executors as a legal matter, but granting someone you trust access to your digital accounts is the only way to ensure that your digital assets will be managed according to your wishes.
Without a digital executor, your digital accounts will continue you to exist without anyone having the right to access, modify, or delete them once you’re gone. Eventually, a company may terminate the account, and any data, files, or other information contained in the accounts will be lost forever.
Chances are, your digital presence is a big part of your life. The thought of all of that continuing on without out you and ultimately just disappearing is disconcerting to most people. The only way to prevent that unfortunate outcome is to appoint a digital executor while you’re still alive.
Much like technology itself, the law regarding digital estate planning and the access to digital assets is constantly changing. It’s possible that California may allow executors to access digital assets down the road, but when and if that will happen is very much uncertain. Until then, naming a digital executor is the only way to protect your digital footprint.
How an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
Creating a digital estate plan is the only way to ensure peace of mind that all of your assets will be handled properly when you’re no longer here to do it yourself. A lawyer who is familiar with the ever-evolving law of digital estate planning can help you name a digital executor and leave the proper instructions for handling your digital footprint.
At the Christopher B. Johnson Law Office, we are highly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of digital estate planning. With over 18 years of experience providing estate planning services to the people of Pasadena, we can help ensure that your digital assets will be handled according to your wishes. If you have questions about naming a digital executor or other aspects of digital estate planning, contact us today.