4 minute read

How to Prepare in Advance to Protect Your Digital Assets

Preparing in advance is the best way to ensure your digital assets will be taken care of in the event something happens to you. Learn more, here.

When you think of your most prized possessions, cherished family heirlooms, or even the home you're raising your family in, you may already know to whom you would like them to go to after you are gone. You know your sister should have the quilt your grandmother made, and that your daughter is to inherit your wedding ring. But what about the online business you developed from the ground-up or the website you built and managed? How about the social media accounts you diligently updated and formed meaningful connections on?

Trust & Will knows the emotional and monetary value of digital assets and the importance of protecting them.

Millennials came of age on the internet. The teens who spent countless hours creating personal diaries and the first blogs went on to carve out entire careers online. Now, as they are at, or  nearing, 40 years old and begin to think more about future Estate Planning, millennials will need to consider what will happen to their digital assets when they are no longer here. But they're not the only ones.

It's time that we start thinking about digital assets in ways we haven't needed to until recently. In this guide, we'll explain what digital assets are, why you need to protect them, and how to include digital assets in your Will or Trust.

What are Digital Assets?

Digital assets are any type of content stored digitally on a computer, on the web, or in the cloud. This includes text, images, videos, multimedia, and digital files containing spreadsheets and slides.

For those running online businesses, your digital assets are everything. They include your website (domain name, hosting, and all content), your brand's social media accounts, usernames and passwords for the services you use to conduct your business, and apps you created or paid to have created for your company. Your business's digital assets also include all of the information you store digitally, including customer information, client lists, and spreadsheets.

You may not think you have digital assets. After all, maybe you don't have an online business or even a website. In fact, you have a regular, old 9-to-5 job and only use Facebook to keep up with family. Regardless of how old you are or what your internet habits look like, you have digital assets. In fact, you just may be surprised by the digital wealth you have.

In 2013, McAfee reported that the average person has over $35,000 worth of assets stored on their devices. Our digital lives have only grown richer since then. That is a lot of value to have slip away if you suddenly died without protecting your digital property.

Other types of digital assets include:

  • Personal social media accounts

  • Blog content, including all text, images, and video

  • Any monetized content on any platform

  • Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies

  • Financial accounts (PayPal, Venmo, Cash App, etc.)

  • Electronically stored photos and videos

  • Digital rights to books, movies, and music

  • Premium subscriptions

Why Do Digital Assets Need to Be Protected?

Digital assets have real-life value, even for casual social media users. To see this in action, we don't need to look any further than Facebook. When someone we know dies, their Facebook page becomes a memorial almost instantly. Sharing pictures, memories, and stories about loved ones with others who knew them can be a source of comfort and closure for many. But without proper management, it could cause emotional harm to those who loved them most.

When someone doesn't appoint a Legacy Contact for their Facebook account or list their digital assets and credentials in a Will or Trust, it leaves their family little recourse for managing their account. Random people could continue wishing them a happy birthday or tagging them in posts and memories for years. When you've lost someone close to you, it can be unsettling to see them tagged in a new post by someone who doesn't realize they've passed. This is just one example of how the internet's largest social media platform makes us think about our digital assets and what will happen to them after we're gone.

For those who are more than just casual social media users, protecting your digital assets is that much more vital. Online content is big business. If you have monetized content on the web, you likely receive monthly payouts from multiple sources. These streams of income may not necessarily dry up just because you are no longer tending to them. In the event of your death, your loved ones would not be able to access these accounts, either to manage or to close them.

How to Keep Your Digital Assets Safe

Most of us store photos, videos, and other assets that would be impossible to recreate, re-download, or re-purchase on our devices. That is precisely why keeping your digital assets safe is so necessary.

Without preparing in advance to protect your digital assets, you run the risk of losing important documents, sentimental tokens, and even money. So, what steps can you take to keep your digital assets safe?

Set up a dedicated external hard drive. An external hard drive is a cost-effective way to keep hard copies of your digital files, photos, videos, licenses, and more.

Include your digital assets in your Estate Plan. Digital property is still property in the eyes of the law. Your digital assets can be passed onto others, just as any other property would be, through an Estate Plan.

Because laws regarding digital assets are still evolving, it can be challenging for anyone other than their original creator to access them.

While it is not recommended to list account numbers and other sensitive digital asset information in your Estate Plan, we do recommend creating a separate document with the information that can be included in your Estate Plan. The most secure route to take would be to set up a digital vault that holds all important information such as account numbers and passwords, like 1Password. Then, you can include your digital vault’s “master key” as an additional document in your Estate Plan with specific instructions for your executor or trustee. 

Protecting your digital assets is important, so there's no better time to tighten up the notch on your account security and protect yourself from data breaches caused by weak or reused passwords. 1Password offers a solution to this problem. With 1Password, all you need to remember is one master password. With this master password, you can access your password manager, which safely stores all of your online accounts and passwords. 

With Trust & Will, a Trust-Based Estate Plan includes a comprehensive list of property and assets, including digital assets, that can be easily updated as you add or remove accounts.

Everyone has digital assets, and they have a longer lifespan than you do. Don't lose your most precious memories, important documents, or crucial business information after an emergency. Prepare in advance to protect your digital assets. Get started on your Estate Plan today!

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