We live in an era where we manage a lot of our assets digitally. Cloud backups, photo storage, online banking, social media profiles, emails, etc. are just a few examples. Have you ever thought what will happen to these assets if you were to become disabled or pass away? Since no one knows the IDs, PINs, and passwords to your lifetime’s worth of digital assets, they become inaccessible, and can create a lot of problems for trustees and beneficiaries who are left to settle an estate.
According to a study by McAfee, an average person has around $35,000 worth of digital assets that are stored on their digital devices. They include purchased books, games, movies, and music, as well as career information, hobbies, personal records, communications, and personal memories. The study showed about 55 percent of the people surveyed said they have assets that’d be impossible to repurchase, re-download, or recreate.
What are Digital Assets?
Typically, a digital asset can be anything that is intangible and formatted into a binary source. They may include any information and files stored on blogs, email accounts, online payment accounts (e.g. PayPal), social media networks, cloud storage, virtual reality and identity, video and photo sharing websites, online video games, online music, and online sales accounts. It may also include any intellectual property rights, like patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and trademarks, related with digital assets.
Estate Planning for Digital Assets
When you make a will for your physical assets, you appoint an executor who will carry out your intentions for distributing your estate. However, the executor may not be able to do the same with your digital assets. Even if you mention in your will about these digital assets, there is a good chance the executor won’t have the credentials and other important information to access these items.
In such a case, you can appoint a digital executor, in addition to the executor of your physical assets, if you think that a single person will not be able to handle both your normal and digital affairs. Your digital executor may perform the following duties:
- Manage your online accounts or simply close or delete them altogether.
- Leave comments on videos and photos, and upload a status informing all friends and family on your social media profiles about the closing of your account.
- Clear your browser history and any other searches that are unimportant for the beneficiaries.
- Cancel subscriptions and inform online companies that you no longer need their services.
For a digital executor to perform these duties, you will have to make a list of all websites and online accounts, along with their security questions, passwords, or any other information to access them. You can include it with the will so that the executor can use them to access and manage your digital assets.
With the increasing importance of digital assets, it is time you consider making them a part of your will. You can take help of a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney who is up-to-date with the recent changes in laws and trends, and should be able handle your estate planning matters involving digital assets. For more information about will contesting and its procedure, contact the Law Office of John C. Grundy at 330.637.9030 or online to schedule your consultation today.