Digital assets are part of your overall estate, but often are overlooked during the estate planning process— perhaps, because we don’t realize what exactly constitutes a digital asset. Digital assets include a variety of online accounts, such as storage accounts for music, photographs, and videos; email accounts; social media accounts; domain registrations; and online access to your bank or other financial accounts, just to name a few. Some of these assets can have high emotional value, such as family photos saved to an online archive account. Other digital assets, such as online access to bank accounts, may be necessary for paying bills electronically or receiving paperless account statements. It can be a very difficult process for a surviving spouse to gain online access to a bank account for which he or she does not have the username, password, or online security information necessary to gain entry to the account.
We live in a digital age where many of our transactions occur without the use of any tangible medium. While this makes it easy to receive statements and pay bills, it can make the job much harder for the executor of your estate if he or she lacks a paper trail to follow. If something happened to you tomorrow, would anyone know how to access your email, financial, or social networking accounts to ensure that bills are paid and your personal information is protected? Unless you live in a state with protective legislation in place for digital assets, your family members or executor would need your unique account information, such as username and password, to access your digital accounts. Without proper planning, it could be extremely difficult for an executor to close even a Facebook account on behalf of a decedent.
However, there are steps you can take now to plan for the transition of your digital assets, such as:
Planning for your digital assets now will save much frustration down the road. By making some changes to your operative documents, you can ensure your executor has the information and tools needed to properly administer all the assets in your estate, including digital property.
If you have any questions about managing digital assets, or would like to request a speaker on this topic for your organization or event, contact one of our executives below at PYA, (800) 270-9629.