Digital assets and the changing role of the Estate Executor
The Estate Executor has three main jobs; secure, protect and distribute estate assets.
What "asset" means has changed considerably. The things that have meaning to people, financially and sentimentally, appear in digital format and they are intangible.
You can help your future Estate Executor out so that the intangibles do not fall through the virtual cracks by mapping out a digital footprint as a memorandum that you will incorporate by reference into your Will. In the digital footprint, include the following:
1. The digital assets you possess. Categorize them into four categories; personal, social media, financial and business.
2. Location of the assets. As in, the physical location and the device it is stored on.
3. How the Estate Trustee can access your assets (logins, passwords) and how you want the assets to be dealt with.
Now, let's face it, you will most likely change passwords and devices before you die. Do you have to change your information on the memorandum each time you move the location or password to your bitcoin wallet?
In case your digital footprint is not up to date, companies like Facebook and Twitter have found a way to deal with inquiring Estate Executors and even some states in the U.S. have implemented legislation allowing family to access the decedent's digital assets.
Canadian start-ups like www.finalblueprint.com are exploring ways of containing and transferring ever-changing information without the burden of personally attending to the data (in our case, the digital footprint) for as little as $25.00 a year.
For now, the best we can do in Ontario, is to be as clear as possible about what makes up our digital footprint and how the assets in the footprint can be accessed. If we can do that, we may be much further along than the Victoria widow who went to Apple to get her dead husband's password only to be told to get a court order.