Digital Estate Planning and Management of Online Assets
In this digital age, our lives are becoming increasingly entwined with technology. From personal memories and financial transactions to social interactions and creative endeavors, we generate an ever-increasing amount of digital assets and online presence.
As a result of the above, it has become critical to consider the management and preservation of these digital assets after our death. This process is known as digital estate planning. Just as we plan for the distribution of physical assets after our death, we must also consider the fate of our digital assets. This article discusses the significance of digital estate planning and provides guidance on how individuals can effectively manage their electronic assets.
What are Digital Asset?
Any content stored in digital format can be considered a digital asset. It is any electronic record or file stored online, on mobile devices, or on personal computers. Examples of digital assets include:
- Online banking accounts.
- Social media accounts: Facebook, X (formally Twitter), Instagram and more
- Blogs and domain names.
- Email accounts: Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc.
- Cloud storage accounts.
- Online store and shopping accounts: Jumia, Aliexpress, etc.
- Subscription service accounts: Streaming services, magazines and software licenses.
- Utility accounts.
- Gaming accounts.
- Cryptocurrency and NFTs.
What is Digital Estate Planning?
Digital estate planning involves including your electronic and digital assets in your estate. It is the process of organizing and preparing your digital assets for eventual distribution or management after your passing.
The Importance of Digital Estate Planning
Without proper digital estate planning, these assets may be lost or rendered inaccessible upon the death of the owner. This can be extremely difficult for loved ones unaware of these assets’ existence or location. Furthermore, the legal framework surrounding digital assets is still evolving, making it critical to develop a clear strategy.
- Preserving Memories: Many of our digital assets, such as photos and videos, have sentimental value for our loved ones. Proper planning ensures that these memories are preserved and accessible.
- Financial Considerations: Cryptocurrencies and digital wallets can be valuable assets. These assets may be lost or remain inaccessible to heirs if proper planning is not implemented.
- Privacy and security: By managing your digital assets, you can protect sensitive information while reducing the risk of identity theft or unauthorized access.
- Business Continuity: If you run an online business or have professional digital assets, ensuring their continued management or transfer for business partners or employees is critical.
- Legal Compliance: A variety of laws and regulations in Nigeria including The Wills (Amendment) Act, 1852, Wills Law of various states, Administration of Estate Laws of the various states, Nigerian Data Protection Regulation 2019, govern the disposition of digital assets following death. Digital estate planning assists in ensuring compliance and reducing potential legal complications.
Steps to Effective Digital Estate Planning
- Create an Inventory: Begin by compiling a comprehensive list of all your digital assets, including account usernames and passwords. Use a secure method to store this information, such as a password manager.
- Appoint a Digital Executor: Name someone you trust to manage your digital assets after your death. Ensure that they have all of the necessary information and instructions.
- Make a Will: Make a will that includes your digital assets. Make it clear how you want these assets to be handled, whether by bequeathing them to specific people or organizations or by providing management instructions.
- Maintain Records: Review and update your digital asset inventory and any related instructions on a regular basis to account for changes in your online presence or preferences.
- Consult Legal and Financial Professionals: Seek advice from legal and financial experts who specialize in digital estate planning. They can assist you in ensuring that your plan complies with applicable laws and tax implications.
In our technologically advanced world, digital estate planning is no longer an option, but rather a requirement. The monetary and sentimental value of our digital assets necessitates careful consideration and planning to protect our interests and preserve our legacy. Individuals can ensure that their online legacy is preserved, their loved ones are cared for and their digital assets are managed. Your online legacy is an important part of your overall legacy and should be treated with the same care as your physical assets.
- “How to Create Your Own Digital Estate Plan”. Trust & Will, accessed 25th September 2023.
- “What Is Digital Estate Planning? How To Prepare”. FindLaw, accessed 26th September 2023.
- “What Is Digital Estate Planning?”. Smart Asset, accessed 26th September 2023.
- “What Is a Digital Estate Plan?”. Experian, accessed 27th September 2023.
- “Digital Estate Planning – What to Do With Your Digital Assets”. McAfee, accessed 27th September 2023.
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