Five Tips for Digital Estate Planning

Now more than ever, we live much of our lives online. Many employees have begun working from home full-time due to the coronavirus pandemic, and we are more reliant on our computers and smartphones than ever. In the course of our busy lives, we rarely sit down and think about what would happen to our digital assets if we suddenly passed away. We have seen many instances in which surviving family members cannot access their loved ones’ digital assets, creating problems. Taking the time to consider what will happen to your estate after you pass away is essential. We have listed five digital estate planning tips below that will help you protect your digital estate.


The first step to creating a digital estate plan is to make a detailed inventory of your digital assets. Most of us do not provide our family members with a list of our digital assets and passwords, making it difficult for them to access information after passing away. Think about what types of information your surviving loved ones will need to access your accounts and write it all down. At the very least, you should write down your online accounts and your usernames and passwords. Update your inventory at least every six months and add any new accounts to the list. We recommend including all of the following accounts in your inventory:

  • Email accounts
  • Online shopping accounts
  • Social media accounts
  • Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, and any other websites or blogs you own
  • Account information for your retirement plan, brokerage accounts, credit cards, insurance, and any other accounts you use to pay or receive payments online
  • Account information for online marketplaces including iTunes, eBay, and Amazon
  • Accounts for video-sharing or photo-sharing accounts such as YouTube or Google Photos
  • Account information for music sites, such as Pandora or Spotify
  • PayPal or other types of online payment accounts
  • Accounts for utility bill payments
  • Frequent flier accounts

Many phones have “digital wallet” applications that allow you to keep track of your usernames and passwords in a secure, online location. Many of us are rightly concerned about our information being hacked or leaked online, especially sensitive information, such as bank account logins. Some people choose to write out a list of their usernames and passwords and place them in a safety deposit box. Others use a digital safe to encrypt their information and store it in one place. Most of these password security sites allow you to choose a beneficiary who will have the legal right to access your account after you pass away. This makes it easy for your representative to safely access your account information.


Many clients name someone to carry out the administrative functions of their digital estate. In some cases, you may allow the executor of your estate, named in your will, to manage your digital assets. In other cases, you may want to appoint someone different. Perhaps your executor is not tech-savvy, and you would like your adult child to be in charge of managing your digital assets. You should be specific in your will regarding what you would like to happen to your digital assets. Specify what types of digital assets your executor has authority over and where they can find information that will allow them to access the account. Some digital accounts allow you to name a beneficiary who will automatically receive control of your accounts.


Consider providing your loved ones with a to-do list that lays out how you like your financial assets to be distributed and what you would like to happen to your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram profiles. Include specific instructions, such as whether you would like your Facebook account to be deactivated after you are gone, whether you would like to set up a memorial account, and who you would like to have any unused credits in your accounts and apps.


Estate planning can involve some of the most sensitive financial and personal aspects of a person’s life, and it should go without saying that you share this information with someone whom you can trust. Digital estate planning is just one aspect of creating a comprehensive estate plan that can help protect you and your family. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, are here to help.

Contact us today to schedule your free consultation. For your convenience and safety, we offer video and phone conferencing. If you prefer an in-person consultation, we have three easy to reach offices in Uptown Charlotte, Monroe, and Mooresville. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help fight for the compensation you deserve.