When most people think about estate planning, they envision sitting down with an attorney and drafting a will where they state who will receive certain assets or property when they die. Perhaps a daughter will receive your treasured tea set or you’ll pass down your valuable signed baseball collection to your son. But what about digital assets? Do you have a plan for those?
Many people might not think about what digital assets are or how to pass on the management of their digital accounts when they die. That doesn’t mean it’s not important though.
What are digital assets
First, digital assets include your financial accounts, personal email accounts and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, for example). If you own your own business and have a domain name for its website, that’s a digital asset. So are all the photos you may have uploaded to Shutterfly, all the book titles you have stored on your Kindle or any documents you might have in a cloud-based storage system.
Some digital assets may be worth something, but others may not. Regardless of their worth, you can plan for your digital assets in your will.
How to manage digital assets
As part of your estate plan, you should create a list of your digital accounts and indicate to your executor which ones should be deleted when you pass away. You don’t want to include passwords in this document because a person’s will becomes public after they die. You can store that list of passwords in a secure place (perhaps in a safe or in password management software) and then let your executor know where to find those passwords.
As of now, executors most often need to contact each digital account about discontinuing it. You might want to know about your online service providers’ policies in the case of death or disability before you include a plan for your digital assets in your will. How difficult will it be for an executor or power-of-attorney agent to access any account information they might need?
Most likely, the laws about digital asset preservation and access will change in the coming years. More and more data are stored online each year, and that’s not likely to stop anytime soon. So, it’s always a good idea to consult an estate planning attorney if you want to include digital assets in your estate plan.