You may have your entire estate plan in place, but have you considered planning for your digital assets after your digital death? We are absolutely 100% in the digital age. So, you should have planning in place to address how your information is stored, transferred, and allocated, both while you are living and after you are gone.
For the purposes of this article, “Digital Assets” can be defined as any assets that are stored, owned, or used electronically both online and offline.
If you’re digital assets are not currently part of your estate plan, you need to rethink your digital afterlife. Human life may be finite, but your digital legacy will be around for as long as the internet stays alive. Proper estate planning includes itemizing your digital assets, and dictating your wishes for how these assets will be handled in the event that you pass away.
Prior to the digital age, when a person passed away their assets and information were all in paper form, or available through the various institutions and companies they used. Now, if a proper record of a person’s digital assets is not kept, a great deal of time and money can be spent having to track down information just to access that person’s accounts and records in the online afterlife. In addition to that added complexity, several larger companies, that people use or subscribe to, have made it difficult for a third-party to gain access to those accounts after the primary user has died. This presents a number of legal difficulties, as some of these accounts and digital assets can sometimes be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
The big problem that is occurring is that even if a trustee or executor can gain access to your accounts, they may be technically breaking the law. And, if there is any monetary value to be gained from your digital assets, your beneficiaries may not currently be legally allowed to sell them on behalf of your estate. Those endless service contracts that you agree to when signing up for a service, govern access to all of the content stored in your accounts. Only a small number of states currently have laws that can override these contracts to give your beneficiaries access to your digital assets. Legislation is being drafted to counter this matter, but having your own plan in place can help to keep you and your loved ones secure.
If you don’t have a current running record of your digital assets, you need to set aside some time soon to do so. At a minimum, you should be keeping a record of your online accounts, including:
In the event that you pass away, it is important that you have told family members or close friends where and how to access your important digital information. Here are the top 5 types of digital assets we would strongly recommend you document, and make a plan for:
If making an inventory of your digital assets, or making a plan, gets to be too difficult to handle on your own, you should contact an experienced estate planning attorney to help you. At Romano & Sumner, we pride ourselves on our ability to guide all our clients through the complex process of estate planning.
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Romano & Sumner, PLLC