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Estate Planning in the Digital Era

In today’s world, where our lives are increasingly online, it’s important to consider much more than the physical assets we’ll leave behind. Gone are the days when estate planning was just about real estate, currency, and handwritten wills. Now, it’s also about what you leave behind in the digital world.

 

What Are Digital Assets?

First things first: What exactly do we mean by digital assets? In a nutshell, these include:

  • Digital Financial Accounts: Think online banking, investment accounts, and cryptocurrency.
  • Social Media Accounts: Your digital footprint on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.
  • Cloud-Based Storage Services: All those photos and documents stored in the cloud.
  • Digital Passwords: The keys to your online kingdom.
  • Digital Devices: With the increasing use of 2-factor authentication, often having a password won’t be enough for those you leave behind. They will likely need to access your mobile phone, tablet, or other digital devices.

Why Include Digital Assets in Estate Planning?

In today’s digital age, ignoring these assets in your estate plan is like leaving a room unattended in a house – it’s part of your estate, whether you acknowledge it or not. Estate planning and digital assets is a crucial part of securing your digital legacy.

Tools and Techniques for Managing Digital Assets

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of how to handle these assets:

  1. List All Digital Assets: Create a comprehensive list. This is your digital inventory – think of it as your virtual treasure map. You can put it on paper, sure, but in the spirit of the topic we also recommend storing it on a shared drive and granting access to your executor or family memebers.
  2. Instructions for Access: Write clear instructions on how to access each asset. Take note of 2-factor authentication, facial recognition, or other security features that might pose a problem for others. Remember, your loved ones won’t have a psychic hotline to you posthumously.
  3. Legal Documents: Update your will and other estate planning documents to include your digital assets. This might require the help of a professional – no, Google does not count.

Preparing Your Loved Ones: Tips for Canadians

It’s not just about protecting your digital assets; it’s also about making things easier for your loved ones. Here’s how:

  • Communicate with Your Family: Have a chat about your digital estate. It’s like giving them a heads-up about what’s in the attic.
  • Designate a Digital Executor: Appoint someone who is tech-savvy. You don’t want your digital assets in the hands of Aunt Edna who still uses a flip phone.
  • Secure Your Passwords: Consider using a password manager or storing your passwords in a secure place. Be sure a family member or your executor is aware of this storage location and knows how to access it.

 

Resources and Further Reading

For more information, check out the Canadian Bar Association’s guidelines on digital assets (Canadian Bar Association). Also, the Government of Canada’s website has valuable resources on estate planning and digital assets.

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