Who knows your passwords? Digital Asset Planning

10 March 2016

It’s an ongoing challenge in this digital age to effectively manage all of our online accounts, technological devices and passwords.

Many of us would be completely lost without ‘forgot password’ or ‘security question’ recovery options.

Even then we can struggle remembering which email address we used and ‘who was my favourite teacher’ again.

So imagine how hard it is for the Executor of your Estate when it comes to managing your digital assets.


Why should I plan for my digital asset management?

We had a case recently where a client owned four mobile phones but the Executor didn’t know which phone was current and what the passwords were for any of them. Since the client also ran a business it was critical that the Executor be able to check any messages but they couldn’t – at least not without a LOT of hassle and delays.

As part of planning your digital assets, it’s critical your Executor knows what accounts and devices you have, and can locate and access them in a timely manner.

The key reasons for including digital asset management in your estate planning are to:

  • Avoid potential identity theft or account manipulation issues
  • Enable immediate payments to be made if needed
  • Prevent any delays in dealing with unfinished business
  • Protect your personal story online eg. Social media presence
  • Ensure accounts can be easily closed or dealt with appropriately
  • Avoid unnecessary correspondence relating to unclosed accounts.

Social media and online accounts can be particularly troublesome to manage without access details. Many high profile online organisations don’t address in their Terms of Service what happens when an account holder dies or loses capacity. Some require court orders, where others don’t allow for accounts to be transferred or closed.


What’s a digital asset?

A digital or online asset can include social media, online accounts, financial details, passwords, PIN numbers and devices such as:

  • Digital devices – computers, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, smart watches
  • PIN/Access numbers for bank cards, phones, computers and other devices
  • Email accounts
  • Online banking and investment accounts
  • Ecommerce – PayPal, ebay
  • Other vendor accounts that are linked to a bank account or card eg. online gaming accounts, mobile app stores
  • Social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest
  • Online media and data sharing – Google Docs, Slideshare, Evernote, Dropbox, Flickr
  • Media created or purchased by you – eg videos on YouTube, photos and music in Itunes, video streaming accounts such as Netflix or similar
  • Business assets – ASIC corporate keys, online superannuation accounts, online bookkeeping and accounting software
  • Rewards and loyalty accounts – FlyBuys, Everyday Rewards.

How do I manage my digital assets

You should make a record of what digital assets and devices you have and where to locate them.

Then for each item specify account details, usernames, codes, passwords and security questions and answers, where needed, to access them.

Once you have recorded this information in a document, you will need to store it somewhere safe and secure.

One of the best options is to provide the document to your Wills solicitor. They will keep it in safe custody with your Will and any instructions you wish to leave. A Wills solicitor can also make a provision in a Power of Attorney document to assist the Executor in accessing online assets where needed.

You should regularly review and update this document and provide the latest version to your solicitor to place on file.


What next?

We can help you with your estate and digital asset planning. We have the expertise to help navigate any complexities that exist or could arise with your unique situation.

Contact Gill & Lane Solicitors at Sandgate via, or 07 3269 8111 for a free, no obligation consultation.