How to Protect Your Digital Assets
Did you know the average American has $55,000 in digital assets? That’s something definitely worth including in your estate plan. Here’s how to get started.
If you have a normal corporate job and don’t own a website, you may be thinking you don’t have to worry about protecting digital assets. Heck, you may even think you don’t have any assets online!
The reality, however, is that you do have digital assets — even if you don’t know it.
Even something as simple as a username and password can open the door to a broad range of personal information that’s valuable to you or your family.
And if that username and password get into the wrong hands, you may wind up in a situation that results in a huge financial loss or a mountain of hassle and stress.
To find out about the best ways to protect your digital assets in an increasingly complex world, I recently interviewed Professor Jamie Hopkins on my retirement podcast, Stay Wealthy.
What is a Digital Asset?
A recent study from McAfee claims the average American has over $55,000 in digital assets. Keep in mind, however, these assets are not necessarily ones that can be bought or sold. The $55,000 figure represents the average monetary value these assets can be worth to a consumer and the people who love them.
But what is a digital asset exactly?
A few examples include your emails, your social media accounts, your LinkedIn account, or a website for your business. Hopkins says it’s common for people to have up to 100 accounts with usernames and passwords at any given time — and sometimes significantly more.
Why are digital assets so important?
These assets do have value, and it’s important to ensure there’s a process for handling them if you suddenly pass away. Unfortunately, digital assets are not always accounted for in regular end-of-life documents like a will. As a result, Hopkins says he’s seen situations where someone he died but they continued “living” on Facebook due to the simple fact their family couldn’t access their account.
Imagine what happens then. Random people continue wishing them “Happy Birthday” and tagging them in posts without realizing they’re gone. This kind of situation is upsetting for the family, of course, which means having access to the account information to close it down does hold some value for them.
On the business side of the equation, preserving digital assets is just as important. If you set up an email account for a business under your name and you die, current laws make it difficult to transfer that email account to the business or anyone else.
Also, note there’s risk involved in letting your digital assets linger once you’re gone. For example, there’s a chance someone could access a username and password for your email account then use that information to hack into other accounts like a bank account or credit card. All of a sudden, someone starts racking up charges on a credit card the surviving spouse didn’t even know about.
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