San Francisco, CA, April 21, 2015 - Social media sites recently released new estate executor policies, shining light on a new reality -- estate management now requires plans for the "digital afterlife." This Make-a-Will Month, Rocket Lawyer commissioned an online survey by Harris Poll among over 2,000 Americans to uncover how people are preparing for the unknown -- whether they're creating a customary Last Will and Testament, or appointing modern digital legacy contacts. New data revealed that 64 percent of Americans still don't have a Will, and while 86 percent of those who have a will indicate they have digital assets, less than 13 percent of those with digital assets have appointed a digital executor.
"People don't think twice about uploading sentimental, valuable and confidential information online, yet their Wills often only cover their tangible possessions, said Charley Moore, Rocket Lawyer Founder and CEO. Modern estate planning needs to consider all of the legal ramifications, from protecting loved ones and children, to preserving Facebook timelines, allocating iTunes libraries and protecting bank accounts."
Digital Assets Falling to the Wayside
A digital executor is a person that people appoint to manage their digital assets after they die, from social media accounts, to bank information and content libraries, like iTunes and Amazon. While a small number of Americans (36 percent) already have a Will in place, 70 percent of those who have a Will have not appointed a digital executor, leaving their online wealth susceptible to legal risks.
Americans' opinions of how to manage the online estate aspects of their Wills are also divided. Thirty percent reported that they dislike new 'legacy executor' policies incorporated by social media sites, while 38 percent like them, and 32 percent are undecided. The findings uncovered a rift in how users would choose to protect their digital assets -- 51 percent of those who have any social media accounts would want their accounts deleted by their 'legacy contacts,' 31 percent would want them to memorialize their accounts and 29 percent would prefer to archive their accounts, so the executor would only be able to downloaded photos, posts and profile information.
The Avoidance Factor
Sixty percent of Americans without a Will indicated that they simply haven't gotten around to making one yet, and over one-fourth (27 percent) don't feel that it's urgent. The number one reason that Americans with a Will have not appointed a digital executor is because they were unaware that a separate one was needed (54 percent). Thinking about estate planning requires some difficult decisions, but it's important that people take legal measures to protect their legacies and ensure their most valuable assets are maintained.
Additional findings from the survey include:
- 70 percent of Americans aged 45-54 do not have a Will, and 54% of Americans aged 55-64 do not have a Will
- 39 percent of Americans who have a Will and have not appointed a digital executor assumed their family and loved ones would be able to access, manage or delete their digital assets (which legally, is not often the case)
- 33 percent of Americans who have a Will and have not appointed a digital executor didn't know they could protect their digital assets in their Will
- 33 percent of Americans who have a Will and have not appointed a digital executor had not even considered what would happen to their digital assets after death
- 69 percent of Americans say the digital assets that would be most important to protect in the case of their death would be their online banking and financial accounts (69 percent), followed by email accounts (33 percent), eCommerce accounts (15 percent) and social media accounts (13 percent)
Planning for the Unknown
Estate planning is necessary for people to unburden their loved ones after their demise. As our lives are becoming increasingly more digital, it's important for Americans to plan accordingly and consider the virtual components that they want to protect.
This Make-a-Will month, Rocket Lawyer is encouraging everyone to take the time to make an estate plan. According to the survey, 18 percent of Americans who don't have a Will say it's because they don't have a lawyer, and 14 percent believe it costs too much. It's simple and free to create a step-by-step Last Will with Rocket Lawyer. For those who need customized guidance from an attorney -- such as people with dependent children, real estate, significant assets or ownership in a business -- it's easy and affordable to talk to a lawyer with Rocket Lawyer On Call® and get the legal guidance they need.
About Rocket Lawyer™
At Rocket Lawyer, we believe everyone deserves affordable and simple legal services. Since 2008 we've helped over 20 million families and small businesses take care of their legal matters so they can focus on what really matters. From free legal documents and business incorporation to discounted rates from outstanding attorneys, we're here to help every step of the way. For more information on Rocket Lawyer, please visit https://www.rocketlawyer.com and follow Rocket Lawyer on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
About The Harris Poll
Over the last 5 decades, Harris Polls have become media staples. With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumer motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods. Contact us for more information.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Rocket Lawyer from March 31-April 2, 2015 among 2,009 adults ages 18 and older, among which 787 have a Will, 663 have any digital assets, and 551 have a will and have not appointed a digital executor. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact rocketlawyer (at) highwirepr.com.
acohen ( at ) rocketlawyer.com
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for Rocket Lawyer PR
rocketlawyer ( at ) highwirepr.com
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This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.