Digital Assets: Protecting Your Legacy

What are digital assets?

Digital assets are property that you own in a digital format and are an important part of your legacy. We live in a digital world, so unless you are technologically averse, you likely have many digital assets. Digital assets can have monetary value like your cryptocurrency wallet or sentimental value like your family photographs.

The most obvious example of a digital asset is your social media accounts, but so many types of accounts are considered digital assets. While what happens to your social media accounts may not seem of the utmost importance, if your accounts have millions of followers, are monetized, or a part of a public personal brand it’s an important part of your legacy.

Types of Digital Assets

Devices: Your devices count as digital assets. Your laptop or tablet, cellphone, hard drives, and other types of storage (as well as their contents) are things that can and should be protected and passed on. With the importance of our devices in our everyday lives, they likely contain important information that your family and friends might find helpful and or comforting when you’re gone.

Online Accounts: Your online accounts are likely the digital asset you have the most of and are the hardest to remember and catalog because of their volume. Your online bank accounts, streaming services, subscriptions, social media accounts, online shopping accounts, and business subscriptions are all included in this asset category. Any account in which you pay online falls under this category as well.

When you pass, leaving a spouse or partner the ability to access these accounts is an important part of legacy planning. Imagine a spouse needing to pay a utility bill for the home you share but is unable to log into the account in your absence.

Electronic files: Electric files are another type of digital asset. Authored work, digital photos and videos, intellectual property, instructional documents, and unpublished works intended for future copyright all fall under this asset category.

Cryptocurrencies: This category of digital assets is likely the most valuable. Unlike a streaming service or family photos, people’s cryptocurrency wallets contain assets with real monetary value and are an important part of your legacy. It’s important to consider them in your legacy planning and include instructions for your executor for how to access and what to do with it.

Why should you protect your digital assets?

Now that you understand what a digital asset is, it might seem obvious why you would want to protect them when you pass away. Maybe you’re writing the great American novel, but pass away before it’s ever published. You might want it to go to your nephew who has a great appreciation for literature.

Or maybe you’ve paid for a year of your favorite digital streaming service and pass before the year is up. It may seem like a silly example, but you work hard for your possessions, even the digital ones, and it makes sense to protect them and pass them down appropriately.

It’s important to understand the difference between licensed and sold content when cataloging your digital assets. This means that not every subscription or service you buy qualifies as an asset. For example, when you purchase a book using your Kindle, the content is licensed to you, not sold to you, which means that the content cannot be willed to another party.

How do I protect my digital assets?

Protecting your digital assets can seem like a lot of work. Remembering all the digital accounts you have and how best to protect them is a significant undertaking. Just like your physical assets, digital assets need to be updated in any legacy planning documents when there are changes. Fortunately, there are tools to make the process easier.

Use a Password Manager

If you’re one of those people who can’t remember how many online accounts you have, let alone all of your different passwords, you might consider using a secure password manager to store all of your passwords. This allows you to pass on one single password to the executor of your estate. The ability to get into your bank or utility accounts can be crucial for the people you leave behind.

Add a Contingency Person

More and more websites are adding a feature that allows users to add a contingency person in the event of your death or incapacitation. Facebook is a great example of this with its new legacy contact feature. It allows the user to add a trusted person to their account to memorialize the account upon their passing.

Several other sites have a similar feature allowing you to designate an emergency contact who can take over your account under a variety of conditions, including if you don’t log in for a specified amount of time or are deceased.

Use a Digital Estate Manager

When you’re creating your will, laying out instructions for your digital assets likely isn’t the first thing to come to mind. Using a digital estate management platform like Noni is a way to make legacy planning for your digital assets easier.

A digital estate manager is an extension of your will or power of attorney allowing you to create and make adjustments to your digital estate easily, without having to update your will every time your digital estate changes. Noni also provides a legal document generator to incorporate your account and directives into your will without leaving the platform.

Digital assets are an important part of your legacy and should be included in any legacy planning and will preparation. It can be overwhelming thinking about the number of digital assets you own, but with the right tools, you can make digital asset management a breeze.