As readers of this blog may remember, we have talked about digital assets in the past. However, that New York blog post discussed the more traditional digital assets and how we distribute and control them in an estate plan. On this post, rather than talking about how to transfer digital and other assets, we will talk about how to destroy them.
First, it is important to understand what constitutes digital assets as these will most likely be the most common “skeletons” people want destroyed. Think, one’s browser history, photographs on one’s phone and that “secret” folder one would not want their mother finding while going through their belongings.
So, what are digital assets and digital identities? Essentially, these are Facebook accounts and other social media. Mint.com, online credit card accounts and memberships at other unmentionable sites all count.
What qualifies as skeletons that should be erased?
Realistically, this is a personal choice as one person’s skeleton may be another’s bag of honor. Think about what wants to be their legacy or what they do not want their friends and family to know, see or discover. As explained before, this could be a browser history or racy photographs, but it could also be secret health conditions, hidden affairs or any secret really.
Electing the cleaner
Keep in mind, there is no judgement here, which means the person one elects to “clean” their skeletons must be completely trustworthy. This is why many recommend a lawyer. As one’s attorney, our client’s wishes are our only concerned and there is absolute attorney-client privilege.
What to “clean”
Next, after selecting the attorney, Cleaner, as part of one’s estate planning process, like in a power of attorney document, one must identify those skeletons to be erased and explain how to eliminate (or clean) those skeletons. This can be as simple as deleting browsing history, but it could also be erasing hard drives, erasing accounts, going through dresser drawers, throwing away pill bottles or many, many other potential skeletons. This may require extremely detailed directions, which means drafting these directions with your estate planning attorney is key.