We don't like to think about what life will be like when we're no longer here and whether our grown children will act like adults when divvying up our worldly goods. We may assume we've taken care of that by having an estate plan that sets down rules and guidelines for sharing our legacy. But in this new modern age, there's a piece of that plan that we may have overlooked: our digital assets. That is, our photos and videos; messages and emails; music and e-books; movies and games; and any cryptocurrencies we may have invested in. Some have sentimental value; others, monetary. Some we're willing to have our children, family or friends rifle through; others, not so much.
Access to our digital assets is more complicated than leaving a list of user names and passwords. There may be those annoying but necessary "two-step" verification and security measures, some of which may require an answer to an obscure question--name of first movie? favorite song?--that our kids (or the person we've appointed to handle our estate) may not be able to answer.
A lawyer I talked to noted that the legal framework surrounding fiduciary access to digital assets is still in the early stage of development. There's a fine line between protecting our privacy (do we want our kids reading all our old emails?) and managing our assets.
As things stand now, we can include in our will special instructions for our digital assets. Here are some suggestions of areas to cover (Excuse the legal jabber and jargon; I tried to modify where possible):
Give your personal representative, trustee or agent a power of attorney to access the content and manage the digital assets.
Give the fiduciary instructions to preserve, transfer or destroy information.
Prepare an inventory of digital assets, including usernames and passwords, so the digital assets can be located.
How you keep that password list up-to-date (how many times and for which sites have you had to click on "forgot password"?) and how you retrace the answers to the "security" questions--well, that's a challenge for another day. Have you or someone you know figured that out? I'd love to have your comments.
Artwork: Self Portrait by Sarah Cain