Do You Have a Plan for Your Digital Assets When You Die?

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Most of us have spent countless hours on the internet building chatting with friends and immortalizing ourselves on the internet leaving digital footprints everywhere. So what happens to your digital life after you die. If you are like me and have digital assets spread all over the internet, do not let your digital assets die with you.

Unlike our parents, we have to worry about usernames, passwords, terms of service agreements and the like. Things are not straightforward like the old days with traditional assets in a house, bank and brokerage accounts, diaries and pictures in a shoe box, which are all fairly straightforward

However, increasingly, as our lives become more virtual and complex, we will have to think about how our loved ones can legally gain access to our digital assets in the unfortunate event we die or become incapacitated.

Why do you need to plan for your digital afterlife?

There are many reasons to do this, chief among them being:

Your digital assets might be worth a lot of money and you will want to make sure that there is no financial loss to your estate.

You do not want your family to lose your story, photos and other precious things with sentimental value.

You might also like to protect your secrets from being revealed i.e. a mistress or secret love child like sometimes it has been the case for men in Kenya.

  Finally, and most importantly you can prevent identity theft.

So, Where Should You Start?

First. Understand the difference between digital assets and traditional assets. In order to fully take on this bull by the horns, you will need good knowledge of both traditional estate planning and settlement and digital asset treatments under the laws that govern the companies that host your digital assets.

Traditional Estate Planning & Administration

Typically involves the naming of fiduciary, and executor for your will, a trustee for your trusts and a personal agent for a power of attorney. Those fiduciary have the ability to manage or distribute traditional assets such as accounts, bank and brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, property and the like when you die or become incapacitated.

Digital Asset, Planning & Administration

Mainly exist online and are probably intangible such as for instance digital currencies i.e. bitcoin, photos and accounts such a with LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook.

It is important to note that digital assets by virtue of the fact they are global, the laws governing these assets is different depending which laws the host company adheres to. For instance, US-based digital assets may be governed by federal privacy laws that protect the companies that provide us with emails and other online services such as cloud storage from disclosing our information to anyone else, including family and fiduciaries.

However, with express lawful consent by the client, these companies can provide access to online accounts to third parties.

What Do You Need to Do?

Two things you will need to do to get your house in order:

A. Create and inventory your digital assets, usernames, and passwords. You can find a trustworthy commercial service that stores your usernames and passwords – this way your family may only need to remember either your username or password.

B. Seek help from an estate planning attorney – due to the complex nature of digital assets, it would not hurt to seek help with creating documents that give a personal agent or representative the ability to access online accounts in the event something happens to you. Some of these documents may include digital asset authorization and consent form, durable powers of attorney, and trustee authority over settlers’ digital estate.

Did you Know?

Some online companies such as Google (Inactive Account Manager) and Facebook (Legacy Contact) have policies that give you the ability to dictate who can look after your account in the event something happens to you.


Digital laws in Kenya are still developing in many ways but with continued use of local digital resources like online trading accounts, it is becoming even more imperative to not only alert your family on the existence of these digital assets but also leave your family the ability to access and manage your digital assets before and after your death.

We are in the 21st Century, and as such you will need a will for the 21st Century.

Happy Planning!

 

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Irene Makanga
Irene has an MBA in Finance and is an avid businesswoman, passionate about financial literacy.

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