Photo albums, diaries, and letters are rapidly being replaced by their electronic counterparts. These are referred to as digital assets. Personal property like photos and journals can tell your life story, and passing that story on to your loved ones is a significant component of estate planning. These digital assets may be priceless and have profound sentimental value. However, unlike in the past when such personal assets were in physical form, the location of your digital personal assets may be unknown to family and friends. They may be stored on your home computer, a flash drive, an external hard drive, an online photo sharing website or a cloud storage server. Even if their existence is known to your family, without taking steps to pass on usernames and passwords, your loved ones may never be able to access these memories or other important information.
From a financial standpoint, many people maintain online accounts like PayPal, which may have a balance that your loved ones may not know about. Even for traditional banks, if you have opted to receive your monthly statements by e-mail, your executor would not learn of that asset if they only had access to your home file cabinet and mailbox, instead of access to your e-mail. Some people even maintain digital business assets, such as blogs and websites that might be particularly valuable.
Accordingly, it is important for you to take inventory of your digital assets, including username, passwords and other login information, such as the answers to security confirmation questions. Because this information can change, it is important to update your inventory frequently but also to make sure it is stored in a secure place such as a safe deposit box or with your estate or elder law attorney.