As you consider your estate planning, have you taken into account two often overlooked areas: your digital footprint and pets, if any?

Digital Assets: Your Footprint May Be Larger Than You Think!

As we spend more time online, our digital footprints have expanded. Yet, digital estate planning is commonly overlooked, often leaving family members to navigate a complex web of online assets and accounts. It’s important to consider the way we will eventually transfer these assets — not just because of the potential monetary value. Some assets contain personal information that can be used by fraudsters to target the deceased or, worse still, relatives who may be vulnerable during a difficult time. Others have sentimental value: photos or videos may provide comfort for those left behind.

Here is a list of digital assets to consider when estate planning:

  • Online Financial & Digital Currency Accounts: Bank, investment accounts, retirement and cryptocurrency accounts with value.
  • Social Media Accounts: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and others for their personal/sensitive information or sentimental value.
  • Email Accounts: May contain sensitive or important communications.
  • Digital Files: Photos, videos, documents and other digital files stored on computers, smartphones or cloud storage services.
  • Domain Names/Websites: May have financial or sentimental value.
  • Intellectual Property: Copyrights, trademarks, patents or royalties associated with digital content such as ebooks, music or software.
  • Digital Memories: Digital photographs, videos or other personal memories stored on devices, online or via the cloud.
  • Digital Subscriptions: Streaming services, software or other digital services that may hold your sensitive data or need to be cancelled.
  • Online Businesses: If you own or operate an online business, it’s important to plan for its succession or dissolution.

The list may be a reminder of how digital footprints have grown over the years. There are steps we can take today to help safeguard our digital assets and provide future access. Planning ahead is important.

Planning for Pets: A Formal Arrangement Can Help
Many pet owners consider their pets part of the family. Yet, they are often overlooked during
estate planning, perhaps because the focus tends to be on distributing assets/property. What many may
not realize is that, for estate planning purposes, pets are legally considered personal property in Canada. This means that it is not possible to name a pet as a beneficiary in a will. Laws are evolving — Alberta and Quebec have recognized animals as “sentient beings” and B.C. recently amended its Family Law Act to no longer classify pets as property in separation/divorce proceedings.

If you own a pet, consider the importance of planning ahead. Some owners assume that family or friends will automatically care for a pet after they are gone; however, without a formal arrangement this can lead to disputes or neglect. Others may overlook factors such as the pet’s age, health and specific needs when choosing a caregiver.

Some make provisions in their will for their pet’s care, including designating a beneficiary to receive the pet and ensuring adequate funds are allocated for care. This is recommended as a beneficiary may decline the gift of the pet if they are unable to care for it. Others explore the option of establishing a trust, where a third party holds funds for the benefit of the pet. Yet, keep in mind that a chosen trustee may not necessarily adhere to the terms of the arrangement, or there may be other implications depending on the jurisdiction, such as potential tax considerations or reporting obligations.

If no provision has been made in the will, the executor will decide what happens to the pet. As such, if there are specific wishes for your pet, including these within an estate plan is important. Additionally, given that pets often require immediate care, in the event of an emergency consider carrying a card in your wallet with details about the pet’s location and someone who can provide immediate support.

The Bottom Line: Planning ahead for the care of your loved ones, including making provisions for digital assets and pets in your estate plan, may be one of the most thoughtful legacies you leave behind. As always, please seek advice regarding your situation.

Harbourfront Wealth Management was one of Wealth Professional Magazines 5 Star Brokerages for 2022. Wealth Professional is a free online information resource for all Canadian advice and planning professionals. This is not a paid award Harbourfront Wealth Management is not a sponsor.

Latest Posts

Read the latest news, commentary, and insights from Oakwater Wealth.

Back to Insights