We all know how important it is to create a will that clearly states how you want your estate managed and distributed after you die, but does your will include your online assets?
What Are Online Assets?
Before the internet was born, our assets were paper bills, record collections, and vehicles that could be seen and touched. These days, you may own several websites that generate income, have a popular blog that thousands of people follow, hold a Paypal account or even a high-yield online savings account that only sends electronic statements.
These are all assets, even though they can’t be picked up or touched. Because online assets are so ephemeral, it’s easy to forget all about them when planning for your estate, but these assets do count! According to an international survey conducted by MSI in 2011, Americans estimate the average value of their digital assets to be $55,000. That’s money you don’t want your heirs to miss!
Who Has Your Passwords?
When you begin the process of estate planning, you know that it’s important to start gathering your documents so that your family will have easy access to the paperwork they need to carry out your final wishes. For example, you’ll want to make sure you list all of your property and have the deeds to land, buildings, and vehicles in a place where your family can easily access them.
The same goes for your digital assets. Your family may have no idea that you have a Paypal account or an income-generating website unless you include it on your list of assets, along with the appropriate usernames and passwords. Think about all the footprints you’ve left online: Email accounts, Facebook page, domain names you own, blogs, online brokerage accounts, etc…
You don’t want all of these accounts just hanging out on the internet gathering dust after you are gone, right?
Make a Digital Estate Plan
As a part of your estate plan, make a list of all of your accounts with usernames and passwords and be clear about what you want your heirs to do with them. This could mean bequeathing a business website to your children or simply asking your children to close down your email addresses and take down your social media pages after you are gone.
You’ll also want to double check different online membership accounts to see whether or not you own any assets. For example, even if you’ve spent thousands of dollars buying songs through iTunes, ownership only extends to you during your lifetime. When you die, you cannot pass your songs and playlists to your heirs.
Our advice is to make a list of all your online accounts, just like you would with any of your physical assets, and include:
- Description of the asset
- Who should receive and/or how you’d like the asset dealt with
Don’t forget that passwords often change! We suggest putting a notice in your calendar every six months to update your list with new passwords and any new accounts you’ve opened. Your heirs will greatly appreciate this effort!
Learn more about estate planning in our big archive of articles just for women related to retirement.