Include Digital Assets in Estate Plans
As people become more dependent on computers, they are storing more information digitally. What people might not realize is that they are creating digital assets that should be included in their estate plans. When people think of estate plans, they may only consider things like houses, money and other tangible personal property. However, some of the things people have online are just as important to them as assets traditionally included in estate plans, and people should take steps to ensure that they spell out their wishes for their digital assets in their estate plans.
Making a Plan
Estate planning experts recommend a three-step process for people trying to include digital assets in their estate plans:
· Inventory assets: The term “digital assets” encompasses a wide variety of items, including online businesses such as Etsy or Ebay, social media accounts, online photographs, blogs or other writings, music and other art. Some people’s employers offer stock options or retirement accounts that only issue electronic statements, so these are also considered digital assets because survivors would have no idea of their existence unless a person leaves documents noting the existence of such holdings. People need to catalogue all the different types of digital assets they have.
· Decide what to do with assets: Once people have a clear idea of the extent of their digital holdings, they can make plans for what they want their survivors to do with each asset. Some may want to ensure that certain heirs receive photos or have the ability to take over online businesses. Others may want to ensure their social media accounts are deleted.
· Draft documents: When people have determined what they want to happen to each digital asset, they need to draft appropriate documents so that their personal representative can carry out the plans for the assets. These documents need to contain user names and passwords for various accounts and possibly the person’s computer.
Consult an Attorney
Estate planning can become complicated, particularly when people are not aware of all of the elements they need to include to make their estate plans complete. Contact a veteran estate-planning attorney in order to ensure that your estate plan is as comprehensive and up-to-date as possible.