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The rise of digital estate planning

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Estate Planning

In a time where most American adults’ lives are increasingly interwoven with digital platforms, digital estate planning has become both increasingly relevant and an increasingly popular undertaking. 

Americans’ reliance on digital tools for personal, financial and social purposes has naturally resulted in a need to protect each individual’s interests in their digital footprint in much the same ways that traditional estate planning allows individuals to safeguard their interests in personal property and other tangible and intangible assets.

This concept involves making arrangements for one’s digital assets, such as social media accounts, emails, digital currencies and online banking details, in the event of incapacitation or death. 

Getting one’s digital “affairs” in order

There are many compelling reasons why digital estate planning is not just a trend but a necessity in contemporary estate planning practices. For the average American adult – of any age – a digital footprint extends far beyond the occasional email or social media post. It encompasses a wide range of online activities, including financial transactions, investment management and personal communication. These digital assets hold significant emotional, financial and sometimes, intellectual value, making their management an essential part of estate planning. 

The administration of an estate can become exceedingly complex without clear directives on how to handle digital assets. Executors may struggle to access vital documents or accounts, leading to delays in estate settlement and additional stress for grieving families. Digital estate planning provides a roadmap for executors, outlining specific wishes for each digital asset, thereby streamlining the process and better ensuring a smoother transition for all involved.

Additionally, digital estate planning is increasing in popularity simply because many people understandably want their digital footprint taken care of in specific ways in the event of incapacitation or death. A young college student may not want their parents snooping around in their browser history if something terrible happens to them. A parent may want to make sure that their children’s digital baby books are passed along without any concerns.

In a nutshell, digital estate planning has been gaining popularity and becoming increasingly necessary as Americans’ lives and assets have become more entrenched in the digital realm. It is a process that helps to address the practical, legal and emotional aspects of managing digital legacies. It can also help to ensure that individuals can protect their digital assets and preserve their online presence according to their wishes.