The world is changing. It used to be that our wealth was tied up in physical assets. When you passed on, you left those items to your heirs. Someone got the set of silver cutlery, someone got the fine china, someone got the expensive watch, and everyone split the family keepsakes.
In today’s digital world however, more and more of what we value isn’t physical. If you were to pass away unexpectedly, would your spouse or executor know how to access your digital assets? Would they even know they existed?
What is a Digital Asset?
Digital Assets are those things that are worth something, and that you might like to pass along, but don’t exist in the physical word. They can be computer files, licenses to subscription services, music or movies that were purchased through online accounts, credit card rewards points, social media profiles, digital photographs, etc. We’ve compiled a list of some of the common ones below as a starting point.
- Email credentials
- Device credentials (laptop, cellphone, iPod, Amazon Kindle, Kobo Reader, Playstation, etc.)
- Social Media Credentials (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Reddit, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Quora, Vine, Periscope, etc.)
- Google Accounts (photos, music, movies, apps, Gmail, YouTube, etc.)
- Microsoft Accounts (Hotmail/Outlook, xBox Live, Office 365, Skype, Groove Music, OneDrive)
- Apple Account – iTunes (photos, music, movies, apps, photos)
- Sony PlayStation Account (PS Live, PlayStation Music, PlayStation Video, PlayStation Network, etc.)
- File storage services (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, iCloud, etc.)
- Amazon (Photo/file storage, eBooks, Audible audio books)
- Digital Photographs (Google Photos, Apple Photos, Flickr, Snapfish, etc.)
- Subscription Services (Netflix, Dollar Shave Club, Birchbox, Barkbox, etc.)
- Financial Tools (PayPal, Mint.com, Quickbooks Online, online banking, etc.)
- Online Shopping Accounts (Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Costco Online, etc.)
- Travel Rewards (Airmiles, Aeroplan, Wesjet Dollars, etc.)
- Fuel Rewards (Petropoints, Esso Extra, Husky Dollars, etc.)
- Credit Card Rewards (Cashback, AMEX Points, CIBC Aventura, HBC Rewards, etc.)
- Retail programs (Save on More Rewards, Canadian Tire Money, Shoppers Optimum, PC Plus, Best Buy Reward Zone, etc.)
- Hotels (Fairmont President’s Club, IGH Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest, Wyndham Rewards, etc.)
- Other rewards programs (Scene for movies, Starbucks Rewards, McCafe Rewards, etc.)
*Can you think of anything we haven’t listed? We’d love to hear from you so we can keep this list up to date!
Develop A Plan For Your Digital Assets
If you have accounts that have accumulated financial value through purchases & rewards or have accumulated sentimental value through your online activity, then you need a plan.
Your plan should start with simply creating an inventory of these accounts so that you have a master list. From there you can decide on whether the accounts should be made accessible to someone upon your death. Things to ask yourself include:
- Why is this account relevant?
- Why do I believe it has value?
- To whom does it have value?
- Do I want this account to pass on to someone specific?
- If so, who?
- Where can this person find the login credentials?
- Are there any special instructions I would like this person to follow when being granted access?
- Do I want to provided access now? Or is it contingent upon my death?
- How do these assets fit into my overall will and estate plan?
- Would anyone (i.e. my spouse) be severely inconvenienced if I were to pass away without putting a plan for these things in place?
Once you have a master list, you need to answer the above questions about each asset or account. This can be as simple as a written document that lists the accounts or items with a small paragraph outlining the above. You can choose to include your credentials here or not depending on where you will save/store this document and who might have access to it.
This document should in turn form part of your will or be referenced in your will, so your spouse or executor knows to look for it. An inventory that nobody knows about or can’t find isn’t much good to anyone.
Review Your Digital Assets Annually
Lastly, you need to plan to review this list periodically. We recommend putting an annual recurring appointment in your calendar to remind yourself to look at this document once a year. An annual review of this Digital Asset Inventory will help you keep it up to date if credentials change, or new accounts are created that ought to get added.