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Should I include digital assets in an estate plan?

Posted on Thu Dec 20, 2018, on Estate Planning

Estate Lawyer Allentown, PA

include digital assets in an estate plan.

According to a recent survey, only 4 in 10 Americans have a will and about half are up to date — the remaining 60 percent lack this primary, but essential, estate planning document. It’s likely that even fewer Americans have given thought to their digital assets and the importance of including them in their estate plans. Often overlooked, include digital assets in an estate plan.

Two or three decades ago, a typical person’s assets included houses, real estate, cars, antiques, art, personal belongings, and so forth. Now, an estate also includes electronic assets.  Cryptocurrencies, online banking, PayPal, loyalty reward programs, cloud-based storage, social media accounts, and frequent flier miles. These examples are all forms of digital assets.  It is best to consider digital estate assets as part of your estate plan. Failure to do so could create a headache for executors.  Further, beneficiaries and your power of attorney may overlook your digital assets.

What is a Digital Asset?

There are different types of digital assets, two of the most common types include:

Financial Assets – These include virtual currencies, music, financial records, and online content that generates revenue.

Sentimental Assets – Including photos, videos, text messages, and social media accounts. In short, anything digital held on a computer, phone, laptop, or server. Most people feel a “loss” if something happened to such items.

Managing Digital Assets vs. Traditional Assets

Upon someone’s death, it can be difficult to access their digital assets. Inability to access could be due to a failure to leave behind account information or passwords.  And while it is often possible to recover these details, the company usually requires communication with the account’s owner. After death, they may require legal authorization from the family members. Furthermore, it is common for someone to hold accounts about which no one else knows. The longer these accounts are left, the more likely the risk of the assets will be destroyed.

Leaving a Password with Family Members

Federal and state companies can limit access to a deceased person’s account. Even if a family member has the account’s password, unauthorized attempts to access the account could be breaking the law.

Consider the  Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. Unless family members or even the executor of the estate has received pre-death authorization, they cannot obtain digital assets.  

How to Organize Your Digital Assets

Including digital assets in your estate plan is essential. The following are a few tips from our estate planning lawyers.

Social Media Accounts – Take a moment to consider how and who you would like to handle your “online life.” For example, Facebook allows an immediate family member or administrator of an estate to close or memorialize the account. You may also want to create instructions on what you would like to see happen to all of your social media accounts.

Create a Digital Asset Inventory – Review all of your online accounts and make a complete list of your login details and a general overview of what the account contains.

Don’t Assume Your Digital Assets Have No Value – Internet domains, blogs, websites, social media accounts, and photo stock accounts could hold monetary value. There are also cash back features from credit cards and frequent flier programs that may be valuable. Include these in your estate plan.

Consider a Password Manager – There are websites that allow you to update and save all of your online account details in a digitally encrypted safe. Set these accounts so your data is transferred to your named representative at your death or incapacitation.

Finally, ask your estate lawyer Allentown, PA offers at Klenk Law to include provisions in your will that granting the executor access to digital assets and online accounts. Your trust and power of attorney can also include language or amendments that gives the right authority or beneficiaries access to your digital assets.

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