HOW TO PLAN FOR THE FUTURE OF YOUR ONLINE LIFE

Did you know that two-thirds of all digital content is created by individuals, not businesses or organizations?1 Your so-called "digital assets" increase each time you open a new account, send an email, snap a picture, book a flight, make a purchase or post a comment. It's more important than ever to understand these assets and how to protect and plan for them.

WHAT'S A DIGITAL ASSET?

Although there's no official definition of "digital asset" yet, you can think of it as any information stored electronically, either online or on an electronic device. This includes text, images, multimedia and personal property stored in a digital format. It also includes any words, characters, codes or contractual rights necessary to access that digital content.

Digital Asset

SO MANY DIGITAL ASSETS, SO LITTLE TIME

HOW MUCH CONTENT DOES THE AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD CREATE EACH YEAR?

YOU'RE RIGHT!

The average household creates enough data to fill 65 32gb smartphones per year. In 2020, this number will grow to 318 smartphones.

Source: EMC Digital Universe with Research & Analysis by IDC, "The Digital Universe of Opportunities: Rich Data and the Increasing Value of the Internet of Things," http://www.emc.com/leadership/digital-universe/2014iview/index.htm.

NOT EXACTLY!

The average household creates enough data to fill 65 32gb smartphones per year. In 2020, this number will grow to 318 smartphones.

Source: EMC Digital Universe with Research & Analysis by IDC, "The Digital Universe of Opportunities: Rich Data and the Increasing Value of the Internet of Things," http://www.emc.com/leadership/digital-universe/2014iview/index.htm.

4 COMMON TYPES OF DIGITAL ASSETS

Although there are many digital assets, they typically fall within four categories. Match each type of asset to the examples listed below.

DRAG EACH LABEL TO ITS DESCRIPTION
 
 

Information stored on social websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest.

 
 

Photos, videos, emails, music, medical records, blogs, usernames and passwords, digital books, gaming assets, avatars, home security systems and loyalty programs.

 
 

Online shopping sites, PayPal, online bill pay, digital tax documents, credit card accounts, virtual currencies and U.S. Savings Bonds.

 
 

Domain names, blogs, patient/customer information, eBay seller information, intellectual property, self image and digital file storage.

WHAT ARE YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS WORTH?

Too often we equate value solely with its worth in money. When it comes to digital assets, many will have value beyond their financial worth. Digital assets may be measured against three separate types of value: monetary, sentimental and "good steward."

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Monetary Value

Airline miles or hotel points may have a nominal monetary value, while ownership in a domain name may have a more sizeable worth.
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Sentimental Value

Personal blogs, family histories, photo albums and family videos may carry more sentimental value than any financial inheritance.
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Good Steward Value

Imagine that you leave a digital footprint without providing anyone with a guide to your various assets. A "good steward" is someone that relieves the family of this burden by providing the family with a digital roadmap.
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POTENTIAL PITFALLS

Digital assets are a relatively new phenomenon, so it's not surprising that a great deal of confusion can occur when an owner is no longer able to manage the assets due to either incapacity or death. There are eight main obstacles to be aware of as you start planning for your digital assets.

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USERNAMES AND PASSWORDS The fluid nature of usernames and passwords can be an obstacle if not addressed (and continually updated) as part of an overall digital roadmap. ENCRYPTION OF DIGITAL ASSETS Encryption scrambles data, protecting it so a person can't make any sense of it without knowing the password. This security measure may complicate things for your heirs if they're unable to locate the password. DIGITAL ASSETS ARE CONSTANTLY CHANGING The possibility of personal changes and technology advancements are endless. TIME The passage of time may be an obstacle to planning. "TERMS OF SERVICE" AGREEMENTS When opening accounts, we click the button next to the words "I Agree" and, by so doing, agree to the Terms of Service contract, which governs your associated assets. Your heirs may be bound to the same agreement. FEDERAL CRIMINAL LAWS The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) (18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)) makes it a criminal offense to intentionally access a computer without authorization. FEDERAL PRIVACY LAWS The Stored Communications Act (SCA) (18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq.) creates privacy rights that protect the contents of certain electronic communications and files from disclosure by certain providers of electronic communications services or remote computing services. STATE LAWS So far, few states have addressed the planning needs of digital assets. Many of the states that have addressed this issue have laws that are unclear.

PREPARING FOR DIGITAL AFTERLIFE

The online world has become the center of our daily transactions. It's where we work, play and get together. In doing so, you're creating digital assets every day. Now imagine what happens to your digital life when you're no longer able to navigate your digital world. Ask yourself:

  • Have I prepared a digital roadmap for my family and others to follow?
  • Will my family/heirs know about the digital assets I've created and how to access them, or will they be left in the digital ether?
  • Will my family/heirs be able to manage my digital assets in a manner that meets my intended objectives?
  • What will happen to my digital legacy?

5 STEPS TO PLAN FOR YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS

When it comes to digital assets, you can make things easier for your family/heirs by simplifying the work of your appointed agent or executor. In addition, planning ahead may help prevent losses to the estate while avoiding unexpected costs. Addressing your digital footprint will help ensure that your personal story remains alive while keeping any sensitive information protected.

Turn to your U.S. Trust® team for guidance about your assets — including the digital ones.