How do you incorporate digital assets into your estate plan?
Most of us can’t go a day without checking our email, social media or online banking. We depend on these digital resources for entertainment and other purposes so much that we are spending more time online than ever before.
But, what happens to these accounts after you die? Are they doomed to float on in cyber-space for all eternity or do you have a say? Luckily, you can decide what happens to your digital assets just like other assets.
What is a digital asset?
Almost anything can be considered a digital asset. Computer files, email accounts, social media, online banking and blogs, among an array of other things. Basically, anything that is on a computer and/or is a part of your online presence is a digital asset.
How do you manage digital assets in an estate planning context?
Digital assets should be handled in a similar way to other traditional assets. The first step in this process is to compile a list of all of your digital assets. Once this list is made, use it create another record of the usernames, passwords or other security information for each account listed. This will allow a person of your choice to access the account and follow the instructions that you have given.
Once you have a list of assets and a record that will allow access, you must choose someone to manage these items after your death. While choosing an executor is often based on his or her trustworthiness and relationship with you, it is important to choose someone that understands digital assets as well. Your executor might be wonderful at handling other portions of your estate but have no clue where to start with your digital assets. The last step in this process is leaving detailed instructions for the person you have chosen. Would you like the accounts closed or would you prefer they remain open? If the estate can benefit financially from one of the assets, would you like to designate how? Who do you want important personal and business information to go to? It is crucial to be as detailed as possible when giving instructions on these matters.
As there aren’t many laws relating to digital assets on the books, attorneys are free to be creative when coming up with a plan.