A Digital Executor is responsible for managing your digital assets after you die, paying any debts or maintenance fees on behalf of your digital estate, and making sure that your digital assets are distributed to the people you want in the way you want. A digital asset is anything you own or have rights over that exist online or is stored on computers or other digital technology. On average a consumer would have $35,000 worth of assets stored on their digital devices. (McAfee’s 2014 Digital Assets Survey).
Research has shown that, on average, every 60 seconds:
- Over 168 million emails are sent
- Over 695 thousand Facebook status updates are written
- Over 67,000 digital photos are added to Instragram
- About 600 digital videos are added to YouTube
- About 320 new Twitter accounts are created
- Over 120 new LinkedIn accounts are created
- Over 570 new websites are created
- Over 60 new blogs are created
- About 47,000 apps are downloaded.
Digital assets include such things as files, emails, digital documents, Facebook pages, photos, videos, music, online accounts or social media profiles. Digital assets are becoming more and more common, 90% of consumers own multiple digital assets with 62% owning three or more digital assets. (McAfee’s 2014 Digital Assets Survey).
At Lynn & Brown Lawyers we recommend that you plan for digital assets in your Wills and Powers of Attorney. Considerations for including digital assets in your Will or Power of Attorney could be as follows:
- To keep a record of your history, memories and life;
- To assist your executors when we die;
- To ensure your wishes are followed;
- To manage online business during your incapacity or death;
- To limit distress for those you leave behind;
- To prevent or limit identity theft; and
- To prevent litigation against your estate.
Some providers offer after life options. For example, Facebook has a memorial feature allowing friends and families to request that a deceased account become effectively frozen. Google has launched “Inactive Account Manager” this allows users to provide Google with specific instructions about what to do with their data when they die. The majority of social media and online finance providers such as PayPal, do not offer after life options with their online accounts.
If you do not plan for your estate in the digital age, then it is likely that upon the death of a member of user, the perpetuity of the estate is dependant on the digital asset itself.
The law is still developing and changing in this area. Modern forms of wealth and asset ownership will continue to change and evolve. We recommend that if you have digital assets, you speak to an estate planning lawyer at our office in relation to updating your Will to include clauses for your executor or power of attorney to have power to handle, distribute, access or modify your digital assets upon your death.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.