Thursday, September 8, 2022

How to Inventory and Protect Your Digital Assets

Digital assets are any personal information stored electronically on any electronic device (e.g., laptop, tablet, cell phone) or “cloud” server. 

Many people have dozens, even hundreds, of digital assets that can be worth tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars (e.g., bank and brokerage accounts, cryptocurrencies, and retirement savings plans).

The best way to determine how many digital assets you have is to identify them by general category (e.g., online retailer accounts and financial accounts) and then prepare a detailed inventory. 

The best way to determine their value is to prepare a net worth (assets minus debts) statement that includes digital assets with monetary amounts.

A digital assets inventory is a detailed list of digital assets along with their username, password, or other identification information (PIN number, challenge question responses). 

This list should be reviewed and revised periodically and shared with trusted individuals who are named in legal documents to manage your affairs. Also make sure that digital assets are referred to in estate planning documents (e.g., will or trust) with a named digital asset executor.

Below are examples of items that fit in each of 12 digital asset categories:

Electronic Devices- This category includes smart phones, tablets, laptop and desktop computers, flash drives, and external hard drives.

Benefit Accounts- This category includes rewards programs for various airlines and hotels, railroad miles, and retailer rewards or loyalty programs.

E-Mail Accounts- This category includes login information for various e-mail programs including Gmail, Yahoo!, Microsoft Outlook, AOL Mail, ProtonMail, and Zhou Mail.

Financial Accounts- This category includes bank/credit union accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement savings accounts, credit card accounts, employee benefit accounts (e.g., health insurance), insurance company accounts, and peer-to-peer payment apps such as Venmo and Zelle.

Online Merchant Accounts- This category includes online retailers such as Amazon, “brick and mortar” retailers’ online shopping sites, driving services such as Uber, theaters, and grocery delivery services such as Instacart.

Member Organization Accounts- This category includes “member access” features for websites run by professional associations, charitable and religious organizations, sports season ticket providers (e.g., universities and pro teams), gated communities, and other “members only” groups.

Health Care Portals- This category includes access to personal health care information on websites run by doctors, hospitals, radiologists, health insurance companies, and Medicare and Medicaid.

Photography/Music Accounts- The category includes personal photo and music collections stored on websites such as Snapfish, Shutterfly, Google photos, Amazon Prime photos, Apple iCloud, Flickr, Google Drive, and Apple iTunes.

Publication Accounts- This category includes personal login credentials for newspaper and magazine subscribers, blogs, and other online content that requires payment to access.

Social Media Accounts-This category includes login credentials for various social media programs including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest, Zoom, and Tiktok.

Cryptocurrency Accounts- This category includes account access information for cryptocurrencies and crypto exchanges such as Coinbase and Examples of cryptocurrency assets include Bitcoin, Ethereum, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and stored value in online games such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and World of Warcraft,

Website Accounts- This category includes personal access to accounts maintained for website domain names and hosting services and cloud storage programs such as Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Box, And Google Drive.

In summary, don’t leave your digital assets to chance. Take the time to prepare a digital assets inventory. Benefits include:

¨    Hassle-free access to online accounts

¨    Saving time (to log into accounts) and money (e.g., legal fees and lost assets)

¨    Less stress for heirs, survivors, and fiduciaries

¨    Protecting private information and avoiding identity theft

¨    Avoiding creepy” situations (e.g., Facebook birthday reminders for dead people)

This post provides general personal finance or consumer decision-making information and does not address all the variables that apply to an individual’s unique situation. It does not endorse specific products or services and should not be construed as legal or financial advice. If professional assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.


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