iPhone 7 and your digital estate

The iPhone7 is nearly here.

Scheduled for release this month, the latest iteration is rumored to include stereo speakers, a better camera and longer battery life. Perhaps most interesting however is not what the phone has, but what it will lack.

The smartphone will purportedly ship without a traditional headphone jack, replaced instead by headphones that plug directly into the charging port. The change will make room for the second speaker and increase the phone’s water resistance.It’s also a reminder of just how quickly technology has changed all of us. A smartphone, once considered the very cutting edge of technology is now seen by many as a vital life accessory.

Our increasing reliance on technology has many other implications for our lives, even changing the assets we accumulate during them. Beyond smartphones, many of our most important possessions have shifted to the digital realm.

  • Computers and electronic devices
  • Online businesses and websites
  • Email and social media accounts
  • Paperless investment accounts and bill pay services
  • Files and spreadsheets
  • Family photos and videos

This shift has implications for our estates. Your heirs will need guidance to administer these assets in your absence and a digital estate plan can be a key component in sharing your wishes.

The good news is that while closing this gap may be important, it shouldn’t be difficult. Three simple steps can help you get started…

Step 1- Create a Digital Inventory
A plan for your digital estate begins with a full accounting of your electronic assets. Take the time to build an inclusive list using the bullet points above or an online digital asset inventory form. In addition to documenting what exists, your list should include the location, usernae and intended heir for each. This will likely be an iterative process and the level of detail for your list is up to you. Carefully consider whether or not to also include passwords and how you will secure this sensitive information if you do.

Step 2- Share your Inventory
Depending on the makeup of your list, your estate attorney may recommend an addendum to your will to account for your electronic assets. For many however, simply sitting down with a spouse or trusted advisor and reviewing the list will suffice. Not only should this discussion include a review of your list, but also where the list will be stored and how it will be accessed.

Step 3- Review Regularly
As with all planning, it is important to remember that your digital asset inventory represents a snapshot in time and will need regular updates. Your assets, accounts and expectations will change over time. By taking the time to review your list annually you can ensure its accuracy.

Additionally keep in mind that the laws regarding digital assets are also evolving. While today there is no specific legislation in Wisconsin1, many states are implementing laws that could have an impact and require a change in approach. A regular review of your inventory is a good time to consider any changes that may have transpired impacting Wisconsin residents.

Storing Important Documents
Creating an estate plan and digital asset inventory are important steps toward securing your legacy. Storing these documents in a safe, yet accessible location is crucial. In the next few months we will be rolling out a new digital vault feature that can make that easier than ever.

It will allow our clients to safely store documents like these along with a copy of their current financial plan, healthcare directives, powers of attorney, and other documents. Copies of these documents will then be available to access safely and securely via mobile device.

Look for updates about the digital vault on our Facebook page in the coming weeks.

Doug Weisenberger

Author: Doug Weisenberger

Doug Weisenberger is a Senior Partner with North Star Resource Group in Madison, Wisconsin. For over 35 years he has helped families define and prioritize their goals for the future and then align their finances in support of them.

Registered Representative of Cetera Advisor Networks, LLC and Investment Advisor Representative of Cetera Investment Advisers, LLC.