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Advisor Insights

Helping Clients Manage Their Digital Estate Plans

Advisors can play the "quarterback" role in helping clients manage and implement their digital estate plans once a legal estate plan is in place.

When most of us think of estate planning, likely to come to mind are wills, trusts, and other legal documents designed to ensure that assets are properly disposed of. Many advisors are used to coordinating with a client's estate-planning attorney and ensuring that financial account beneficiaries and titles are up to date. But what about a client's digital assets, such as files, usernames and passwords, social media accounts, and websites?

Accessing and managing an account owner's digital assets once he or she passes away or is incapacitated poses some unique challenges. In an increasingly digital age, clients are more likely than not to have a substantial digital "balance sheet," with some assets potentially carrying actual monetary value (such as cryptocurrency). An abundance of digital assets makes things naturally more challenging for heirs, in that they need to know which online accounts exist in the first place--and then how to access them. Even if an inventory of usernames and passwords has been carefully organized in advance, this alone isn't sufficient to grant someone the legal authority to access or manage someone else's online account (even if deceased).