The first part of any estate plan is to take inventory. Things like filing cabinets, photo albums, boxes of memorable nick-nacks, and safes make most of our tangible estate easy to find. Even when filing cabinets and safes are locked there is usually a key somewhere.
Conversely, it can be difficult for surviving relatives to locate or access digital accounts or files that are scattered across several computers, folders, and backup devices.
Many of us have an old computer collecting dust in a closet somewhere that may still contain photos, videos, music, important financial documents, or other digital assets.
To make this process easier on your survivors, digital estate planning begins with making a list of all your digital assets:
Hardware: Include your computers, tablets, iPods, laptops, flash drives, external hard drives, or any other device that contains digital files that are of importance to you. It is also helpful to include a brief summary of what each device contains.
Software: If you used any financial programs like Quickbooks, Quicken, or other tax programs that contain important information include them in the digital assets list.
Subscriptions: Many people rely entirely on web accounts for the management of subscriptions to phone, television, internet, finance and other services.
Social Media Accounts: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogspot, Google+, or any other forums or profiles where you have an online presence.
Shopping Accounts: Shopping websites make it easy to create an account and in many cases people opt for no longer be receiving paper statements. Without a paper trail it is difficult for your heirs to locate these accounts.
Email Accounts: Most people have more than one email address. Each account may have a different set of digital assets. It is important to include an overview of what each email account contains and if there are any important emails to keep.
Work: Make a list of collaboration sites, client sites, Dropbox accounts, databases or other file sharing programs.
Medical/Financial: List any sites that include you confidential medical or financial information. Banks, investment accounts, 401K statement sites, insurance, government assistance sites, automatic prescription refill and any other website that contains sensitive information.
Once you have made a list of the assets in your digital estate, print the document and keep it somewhere safe, yet accessible to your friends or family in the event of your sudden demise, with a copy to your estate planning attorney.