I’m So Much Cooler Online
You’ve honed your online persona to perfection. There’s no one cooler in the World of Warcraft, your YouTube subscribers adore you, and your Twitter followers retweet every post.
Have you considered how you’re going to manage your cool self after you die? Yeah, your online persona will outlive you.
Over the last decade, social media has skyrocketed. Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, eHarmony, even the now outdated MySpace have taken over our children’s and, let’s be honest, our lives.
It’s easier than ever to stay connected, pay bills, gamble, shop,
and work online. This doesn’t just end at death; now, when a loved one dies, there are not only houses and physical items to take care of but virtual realities as well.
This rise of virtual personas has created a need for people to include their digital assets in their estate plans. But what does this even mean?
What constitutes digital assets?
A proposed statute in Oregon defines digital assets as “text, images, multimedia information, or personal property stored in a digital format…” A person’s “digital estate” can therefore include any number of items from personal pictures, videos, blogs, online bank accounts, email, and instant messenger accounts as well as any passwords to those online accounts.
Why does it matter anyway?
When we die, we leave others behind who must handle our belongings. Since this now includes our online “belongings” we must give those left behind a way to access those accounts and permission to handle our affairs. We must consider how much of our lives are lived online, if an individual has a different password for every account and no one else is privy to that information, things can get messy quickly and a lot of personal information and treasured items may be inaccessible or lost completely.
Further, when an individual dies, their financial information may not necessarily die with them. Personal information is left hanging in cyberspace for thieves to latch on to; credit cards may be opened, and identities stolen merely because no one had access and the ability to protect those online accounts.
This does not even begin to cover all of the situations that may arise when digital assets are not properly accounted for.
What should you do?
Plan ahead. Plan ahead. Plan ahead. Contact an Estate Planning Attorney and create an estate plan that includes the disposition of your digital assets, or at the very least instructions that will aid those left behind in accessing your online treasures.
Make sure at least one person you trust knows what accounts you have and where the information is kept that will allow them to access those accounts. If necessary prepare an inventory of your online assets and include the list in your will or other estate planning documents.
–Authored by Kayla R. Wimberley, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Estate Management Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479