Considering Digital Assets in Your Estate Plan

The digital age has introduced some new twists and turns to estate planning. With computers, smartphones, and the internet playing such a major part of our lives, the need to include digital assets as part of your estate plan has become increasingly important for a number of different reasons.

What Exactly Are Digital Assets?

Simply put, digital assets are any type of content owned by an individual that is stored in digital form.  Common examples include: online banking accounts, passwords, email, social media, websites and domain names, gaming sites, online cloud storage, computer files, online subscriptions, digital music and photos/videos, etc. Consider them as your own “virtual belongings.”  Not only do some of these assets have monetary worth, they can also have sentimental value.

Take Facebook for example – think about what would happen if you became incapacitated or passed away.  Would you want your account deleted or would you want your online presence to live on?  From a sentimental standpoint, your family might want access to the account, but may be unable to do so. Or, what about your cherished iTunes music and e-books that may contain thousands of dollars worth of content?  Without proper planning, these assets will likely be terminated or abandoned upon your passing.

Some Tips on Building Your Digital Estate Plan

  1. Create a digital asset inventory that contains all relevant information such as your username, account number, password, security questions etc., and store it in a safe place. You can either write down the information or store it on your computer using a password protected document (examples include PasswordBox or SecureSafe).
  2. Name a personal representative to manage and distribute your digital assets upon your passing. Make sure that whoever you name is technologically inclined to assist with accessing and distributing your digital assets.
  3. Write out your specific wishes regarding your digital assets and be sure your personal representative knows where to obtain your instructions. A few questions to think about are: Do you want your Facebook account memorialized or deleted? Who do you want to inherit your digital property such as photos, videos, music and movies?
  4. Make it legal – have an experienced lawyer draw up your estate plan to include your digital estate.

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