Virtually all of your life is online. So maybe you should be thinking about your afterlife. What’s going to happen to your Facebook footprint after you’re gone? And what about Youtube and Netflix and Linkedin? Are your friends going to be encouraged to congratulate you on a happy work anniversary year after year, long after you’ve passed on?

It could be a tricky situation, but fortunately there is a way to wrap things up neatly through your will. Estate planning isn’t just about distributing your investments and personal belongings and nominating the beneficiary of your superannuation. It can be about planning what happens to your ‘cyber assets’ too.

What kind of cyber assets are we talking about? Your social media accounts are a good place to start. Just like millions of other Australians, you’re probably posting pretty regularly on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. What happens to all that content when you’re not around to manage it? How do you let your network of friends know that you’re gone? These are challenges that can be solved. In your will you can nominate a legacy contact. This person will be able to post on your Facebook timeline (e.g. a final message on your behalf), respond to new friend requests, and update your profile picture (and, cover photo). They will also be able to download a copy of what you have shared on Facebook and request the removal of your account.

To protect you, your legacy contact is given limited powers. They won’t be able to do things like log into your account, remove or alter past posts and photos, read your messages, remove any existing friends or make new friend requests.

Beyond Facebook is a multi-layered network of connections that have grown over time. When you start exploring, you’ll be surprised what you find. Email accounts like Hotmail or Yahoo. An online subscription or two to Spotify and Netflix. Do you have a PayPal account? How about an online business on eBay or Amazon? How many photos and videos are stored on Dropbox or Google Drive?

Google flows through so many aspects of day to day living. Gmail, Google Drive, Google Maps. So, how do we say goodbye to Google? You can assign a trusted contact. This person can download some of your account content, but they’re not given login capacity. If you don’t want to assign a trusted contact, you can instead choose to have your account deleted in the event it’s left unattended for an amount of time you have specified (e.g. 3, 6, 12 or 18 months).

Getting cyber assets into your will is important. If they’re not in there, how will the executor know, and how will the assets be accessed? Inaccessible or unknown cyber assets that hold a monetary value can have implications for beneficiaries. Examples of cyber assets that could hold a monetary value can include a PayPal account with a residual balance, an iTunes account that holds your music library or credits, or a monetised YouTube account. Furthermore, when considering online paid memberships and some cloud-based filing sharing/storage facilities, your executor will need to notify these service providers of your passing so that services can be terminated where applicable.

This century of cyber opportunities is making us all rethink what an asset is. An asset isn’t just a house or a self managed super fund or a managed account watched over by a portfolio manager. It’s an idea or a photo or an online shop.

Sydney Strategy Adviser Sunitha Williams is seeing more and more clients thinking about their assets in a holistic way. “Our lives are becoming more complex in terms of careers and study and side hustles that feed our entrepreneurial spirit. I know so many people who are marketing their main business online and at the same time they’re playing in the social space with accounts that hero other ideas and attract different followers. So, every aspect of who you are and where you’re going needs to be understood by whoever plans your investment strategy, protects your wealth and puts together your estate plan.”

So much of what we do online has value. Sometimes emotional value, sometimes monetary. It’s important that we keep track of that value and manage it through a robust will, adequate insurance policies and a wealth management plan that’s tailored to our life and the things that are important to us.

If you would like more information please call 1300 ELSTON or email info@elston.com.au and an adviser will be in touch.