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How Digital Assets Figure into Estate Planning

May 12, 2021
Andrew Sigerson
Estate planning isn't just about hard assets anymore. Who will read your email when you die?

Yahoo Finance’s recent article entitled “Who inherits your selfies when you die?” laments that the internet ruins everything, and a simple death is no exception.

If asked to close out a family member’s estate, it now includes social media accounts, cloud storage and frequent flyer miles.

Digital assets are files created electronically. They exist as data held on a digital storage drive or computer hard drive.

However, items made by hand can become a digital asset, such as a painting or handwritten notes become digital assets, if they’re scanned and uploaded to a computer.

It can also be images, photos, videos, files containing text, spreadsheets, or slide decks.

The first time anyone has to deal with the laws and rules about incapacity and death, is when a loved one becomes ill or has passed away. It’s an emotionally tough time, and they’re likely to be grieving when trying to make important decisions on a project they know nothing about.

Know that we no longer solely have a paper trail to our lives. Think about the number of digital accounts you log into to manage your household and personal finances.

It’s significant, and an executor's role is now dependent on knowing and finding both our physical and digital lives.

Your executor won’t know what you have, unless you tell them in advance.

Your home office is paperless and behind a locked screen. We all have wishes and preferences about those assets, and these wishes and preferences need to be documented and shared.

Today’s home office is a digital home office. We will soon have the same spectrum of choices in estate planning for our digital assets, as we have for our physical ones.

However, right now, there aren’t a lot of pre-planning options.

You should create a list of your digital assets and passwords, so others you trust will know where to find them. Back up data should be stored in the cloud to a local computer or storage device.

Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about how to organize and address your digital assets in your estate plan.

Reference: Yahoo Finance (April 16, 2021) “Who inherits your selfies when you die?”

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