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Administration of a digital estate: The basics

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Managing the digital footprint of a deceased loved one has become an increasingly common part of estate administration. A digital estate can encompass a wide array of online assets, including social media accounts, digital photographs, emails, online banking accounts and more. 

The first step in the administration of a digital estate is identifying all of the deceased’s digital assets. This can be a daunting task, especially without prior knowledge of the deceased’s online presence. It involves gathering access to computers, smartphones and other digital devices, as well as locating usernames and passwords for online accounts. Creating an inventory of these assets is important for efficient management and distribution of all relevant matters. 

Now what?

Once digital assets have been identified, they need to be successfully accessed and managed. Accessing a deceased person’s digital assets is not always straightforward. Different online platforms have varying policies regarding account access after a user’s death. For instance, some social media platforms allow the conversion of the account into a memorial page, while others may provide options for account deletion or content download after presenting the required documentation. It’s important to review the terms of service for each digital platform and understand the rights and limitations set forth for accessing and managing these accounts.

Once access issues are resolved, distribution or closure of digital assets becomes the focus of the process. This process should align with the wishes of the deceased, as outlined in their estate plan or will, if available. For personal items like digital photos or emails, decisions need to be made regarding who will receive these assets. Financial assets require careful handling to ensure proper transfer to beneficiaries or closure of accounts.

In some cases, preserving the digital legacy of the deceased might involve maintaining online profiles or blogs as a memorial or archiving digital content for family members. This aspect of digital estate administration allows for the continuation of the deceased’s online presence in a way that honors their memory.

Digital estate administration is a complex process. Thankfully, when questions or concerns arise, seeking legal guidance is always an option.