Posted July 24, 2019
Property planning is a sensitive topic. Nevertheless, it is important to arrange what happens to your estate after you are away, as it ensures that your loved ones get what you intend to leave them without paying heavy taxes or undergoing a long legal process.
As technology permeates our world more and more, it's important to consider your digital life as part of the real estate planning process.
Here are four important things to consider when planning your digital heritage.
- 1  Understanding of Ownership
The terms of service for many social media, email messages and cloud application accounts explicitly state that these accounts are licensed, non-owned and therefore non-transferable. This means that you cannot leave them to anyone in your will. For example, if you want to bequeath music collections or personalized email correspondence, you should regularly back up files to your computer or create a plan that lets your loved ones access those accounts after your death and do it yourself. Read prints on important accounts and plan accordingly.
Accessing Accounts and Devices
In line with the above considerations, you will probably give your family a way to enter important accounts or unlock your devices in case you died ̵
Cryptocurrency as a Will
If you keep Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero or other cryptocururrency, you must give your heirs a way to receive inheritance. This means storing private keys, seed phrases and physical hardware papers in a safe place, such as a safe, as well as providing clear instructions on how to access them. Depending on how you store your crypto – in an online exchange, software wallet or hardware wallet – you may need to provide different levels of documentation and details in your real estate plan. The legal and tax issues surrounding cryptocururrency can be complicated, so you should seek advice from a real estate lawyer who is familiar with digital assets when you post your plans.
Some social media services have clear guidelines for processing the accounts of deceased members. For example, Facebook has a process in which the accounts of people who have passed on are turned into memory pages where friends and family can leave messages, and even allow you to designate an "inheritance contact" to attend to such an account. Other services may not have such options, so if you are a member of an online community or have a blog, you may want to create a final message to send them to your friends and give instructions in your real estate plan on how to sign in to account and post your message.
Your digital heritage is definitely a bleak theme, but it is an increasingly important part of real estate planning, both for financial and legal reasons. More importantly, things get a little easier for the people you love during the most difficult times, and let them focus on supporting each other and honoring your memory.