The foremost purpose of an estate plan is to ensure that someone’s wishes concerning the distribution of their assets and sentimental property after death are made clear and made known. Additionally, supplemental documents – like advance healthcare directives – prepare for the possibility that someone will need to make their wishes known if they are ever incapacitated by illness or injury.
Over the past decade, the need to craft a digital estate plan has become increasingly pressing. Digital estate planning is the process of getting digital “affairs in order” before incapacitation due to illness or injury – or someone’s death – no longer allows them to communicate those wishes themselves.
Because digital estate planning considers both death and incapacitation scenarios, it is generally necessary to leave directions for one’s loved ones and/or personal representatives in the event of either scenario. For example, an individual may want all of their social media accounts closed in the wake of their death, but not if they have slipped into a coma.
Making thoughtful decisions
Without digital estate planning instructions in place, your loved ones and your estate’s personal representative will be forced to guess how you’d like your digital footprint handled in the wake of your incapacitation or death.
Take a minute to think about how much time you spend online and engaging with electronic resources like apps and email. Think about what you do when you’re online. Do you have specific opinions about how you want your digital accounts, assets and presence handled when it is no longer under your control? Are there certain people who should – or should not – have access to your accounts and activity history?
By thinking critically about your digital estate planning needs, you’ll be empowered to make informed decisions about how you want to handle that part of the planning process. Seeking professional guidance and assistance can also be helpful when navigating this newer area of law.