• Step 3: Ascertain client’s goals with regard to digital assets.  “Do they even care about it?” asked Ploss.

• Step 4: Estate planning document revision.  He said, “It is very important to get that done.”  That is where the estate planning attorney can help.

• Step 5: Create and maintain digital asset inventory. “This is the real challenge. How do you motivate them?” asked Ploss. For planners, he pointed out, they spend more time with the clients than estate attorneys so this is something they can better stay on top of, as a paper inventory usually does not keep up.

How To Keep Digital Assets Alive?

Once a person passes away, Facebook and other services have mechanisms to shut down accounts, advised Dribin. When accounts are deleted, family memories in the form of pictures, videos and writings can be lost forever.

That is why it is important to have a trustworthy and technically competent digital executor that can have the information to access computers and other devices to get email and other online accounts.

“Inactive accounts should be shut down,” said Dribin. Otherwise there is a risk of misconduct, including identity theft. Facebook permits an account to be memorialized. With good planning, the right person can post obituary information on a Facebook profile, respond to new friend requests, and archive photos.

The estate plan should define people that will have access to that information and it should be clear how they attain it. However, Dribin warns, “Do not list usernames or passwords in a will, because this document becomes public upon death.”

Once it is determined who should have access to the digital assets, what then happens to things like frequent flyer miles, a PayPal balance, a domain name that has value?  It is also important to consider what the client really owns, advised Dribin. Are the digital assets non-transferable assets, per the terms?

He gave an example of a small business website being left for the heirs so they can keep it running when the principal passes away.