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How can I protect my digital assets in my estate plan?

Americans spend an incredible amount of time online. We shop, build and maintain relationships, play games, pay bills and even diagnose some of our medical conditions all on our phones, tablets and computers.

Considering how much we do online, it can be surprising when people fail to take into account these digital lives in their estate plans. If you are creating or revising your own estate plan, we encourage you to take some time to assess your life online and put in place some ways to protect that life when you can no longer sign on yourself.

First, you will want to think about just how many assets and accounts you have online that will need attention in the event of your passing. Many people have social media accounts, online banking portfolios, virtual stores and other aspects of a digital life that are protected by login credentials and encryption.

Once you tally all these up, you should record the access information necessary for each of them. This information must be kept somewhere secure, but also be accessible by specific parties. This FindLaw article has some pointers on how you can do this.

Finally, name that person who you trust to use this information to perform functions like closing accounts, stopping auto-payments, deleting sensitive information, continuing or closing down online stores and/or blogs, and saving photos and personal information. You will also want to provide specific instructions for what you want this digital executor to do with these assets.

Failure to take these and other steps to protect and ultimately grant access to your online life can have some significant consequences, particularly if you keep documents like your will on a password-protected computer or only have critical financial account information stored online that could otherwise go ignored or inaccessible.

Rather than dismiss your digital assets as unimportant or just assume it will all somehow get taken care of, you can make a few relatively simple moves to ensure they are accounted for and protected. Discussing these options with your estate planning attorney can provide you and your loved ones with the peace of mind in knowing your wishes and assets (both real and digital) are protected.

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