Estate Planning in the Digital Age

Protection When Life Is Lived Online

Most of us are living life online. We stay connected with family and friends, manage bank accounts, pay our bills, listen to music, watch movies, read the news and shop for just about everything.

All of these accounts make up our "digital estate," and they're a critical part of our overall estate plan. Managing your online presence comes with a lot of usernames, personal identification numbers and passwords. They can be tough to keep track of, and even tougher to change!

Now, imagine how difficult it would be for a loved one to access them in case of an emergency. Read on to learn more about the steps you can take to ensure your digital estate is protected and your loved ones know how to access your information in case of an emergency.

Three steps to securing your digital estate

  1. Create a list of your digital assets and how to access each one. 
    Make a list of your digital accounts, including everything from email and social media accounts, to online banking or brokerage accounts, to utilities you pay online. Make sure you include the name of the site, website address, user ID or personal identification number, password and short description of the type of account. You can use an online management program with encryption to create a list, store the list on a flash drive or create a simple hard copy list on a piece of paper.
  2. Find a safe place to store your list.
    Your last will and testament often becomes public record when filed, so this is not a safe place to keep your list. If your list is on a flash drive or is handwritten, keep it in a secure location (with your attorney or in a fireproof lock box in your home are two good options). No matter where you store your plan, you'll want to make sure those who need to know where your information is stored — like your executor — are aware of its location.
  3. Determine how each asset should be handled.
    Decide what should happen with each account and outline the details by including it in your written estate plan or by sharing it with your executor or loved one. State laws differ when it comes to handling digital estates, so an estate planning attorney may be of help in this step.

Examples of what may be included in your digital estate:

  • Any information or data stored electronically — either online, in the cloud or on a physical device
  • Any online account, such as email, utilities, social media, shopping, photo and video sharing, video gaming, digital music and websites and blogs you may manage
  • Accounts used to manage money or digital currency and may hold money or credits, like PayPal, bank accounts, brokerage accounts and loyalty rewards programs
  • Art, photos, music, eBooks and intellectual property (including copyrighted materials, trademarks and any code you may have written and own)
  • Domain names

We're here to help

For more information on what your digital estate might look like and how to keep it secure, please seek guidance from an estate planning attorney. If you would like to include a gift in your plans to benefit the future of one of your favorite MultiCare programs, please contact our gift planning team at 253-403-3093 or plannedgiving@multicare.org.