Digital technology has become an expanding industry that has infiltrated our lives and has affected how we interact with others in the world on a daily basis. At one point all of us have left a “digital footprint” in some form or another, whether it be online storage of your personal information, managing your finances, or to manage your favorite music. When dealing with digital assets, people tend to “live in the moment” and do not plan on the future of what will happen to their digital assets after they pass, or are no longer able to manage those assets due to in capacity. The management of your digital assets should be an important concern when you consider your estate plan.
Let’s consider your digital assets in two different categories: sentimental assets and monetary assets.
For some, storing digital copies of their information has become a way of life. People are constantly e-mailing, posting on their friend’s Facebook walls, or storing all of their photos online. What if you suddenly became incapacitated, what would happen to your digital assets? What do you want to happen with your digital assets when you die? Who has access to your online accounts if they contain important sentimental messages that you would want to be seen in your inbox? Can your family members get access to those precious family photos you only stored in digital form? These are just some considerations you should be thinking about when designing your estate plan and how your design could affect the sentimental assets being passed on to your loved ones.
If you use technology for entertainment, you’ve probably experienced purchasing multimedia from digital vendors such as iTunes or Amazon. Do you know what happens to those purchases if you become incapacitated or die? What about your digital assets that actually hold money, such as, your online banking accounts or PayPal accounts? Will your family know how to manage these accounts if something were to happen to you?
Your digital assets can also be used as a tool in determining what your estate actually consists of. You may have a bank account that only sends out electronic statements to your e-mail. However, without access to your e-mail, your Personal Representative may never know about that bank account. Another likely scenario to be considered is the ability to discover automatic payments to services you may have enrolled in. If your family can discover these services by looking at your online banking account, they could cancel the service before the next payment digs into the value of your estate.
These are only some questions to consider if you have digital assets. In answering these types of questions it is important to understand what limitations are placed on your digital assets in regards to transferring those assets. To assist you with your digital asset planning, we have developed a digital asset planning component as part of our estate planning service. We can help you identify your various digital assets, explain what options you have for transferring them, and assist you in developing a digital asset plan. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss your plans for digital assets.